Susie's Leaning Tower of Chocolate

Categories: swishina | Travel

Adventures around the globe


Washington: Day 1.
Drove to Redding, CA. It was 109°. We were able to make a half hour pool reservation.

Day 2.
Drove to Lake Cushman, Washington, with a stop at Walmart for provisions. So glad to meet the Prestons, just minutes after we arrived. They are staying at a cabin down the road. We walked down to the lake and watched the summer solstice sun set at 9pm.

Day 3.
We slept until 8am and then headed down to Cushman Lake with the kayaks. We all took a turn, including Wally. On Dalton’s second turn, he went out into the main lake all by himself, he was so confident, and I was so proud. This is one of the reasons we take our kids to do stuff like this - so they’ll feel confident doing stuff!

Kids jumped off the dock, played at the playground and wore themselves out. In the afternoon, John and I hiked Upper Big Creek Loop, which was close to five miles, and exhausting. Then we went to the Prestons cabin for hamburgers and to play in their big open yard.

Day 4.
First, we drove to North Beach in Port Townsend to look for sea glass. I loved this part. All the kids had fun digging on the rocks and collected lots of glass. Then, we went to the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park in Port Angeles for a picnic and a short hike. The hike gave us a fantastic view of Olympic NP and even to Canada. We stopped in Hoodsport for ice cream on our way back. I had a delicious lemon cheesecake raspberry swirl.

Day 5
I spent most of this day sick at home with Arthur’s cold, and Jodi and the little kids. We did take them into town for ice cream, and down to the lake with floaties for an hour. Meanwhile, John and Franco took Maggie, Dalton, and Franco in a fishing excursion. They all got to catch salmon to bring home to eat, and had a great time on the boat with amazing views.

Day 6
Today we drove 4 hours to Hoh rainforest, where we took turns watching Wally/doing the Hall of Mosses hike. It was so green! Then we went to Ruby beach, which was covered in rocks and driftwood. Arthur and Sienna hopped in in their clothes and had a blast splashing with cousins. We also stacked a lot of rock piles.

Day 7
One of the coolest parts of our Washington trip was visiting High Steel Bridge. It was a 45 minute drive from our cabin, including a few miles of dirt road. The bridge is 365 feet above the gorge, beautiful view of the river and a waterfall, Franco took some fun pictures with his drone.

We had lunch together, then went down to the lake for some mega floatie, kayaking fun. The Saturday vibe at the lake was very different but we still had fun. Dalton and John kayaked all the way across the lake!

Day 8
Drove a million hours to Utah. Sigh. Ok, it was just 14.

Joshua Tree: This weekend we went on a long-awaited adventure to Joshua Tree National Park. We went for stargazing last May, and the kids immediately asked to go back. We went with our friends, and planned a couple short hikes, then a picnic dinner bd star gazing, but we only ended up doing one of the hikes. The kids just wanted to climb on every surface available. Which was awesome. So much climbing, and jumping, and scrambling. After the actual hike, we went to the same spot we went to last time. The kids did lots more rock climbing, went off exploring on their own. The dad’s supervised and the moms set up picnic dinner in a parking lot spot between our vans. Then we had treats and cookies and card games while waiting for the sky to get dark. We bundled up in winter cots and beanies and sleeping bags and watched the stars explode all over the sky. It was fantastic. We headed home about 8pm after a long and busy day. All in all, a day we’ll spent. Wally came with us and also had a blast running round, and snugging Maggie during star gazing.

Yellowstone: We’re road-tripping it up still. We drove to Yellowstone from John’s parents yesterday and spent all day in the park today. Because we had Wally with us, and dogs aren’t allowed in any trails, we took during doing a lot of things, and got to do some things twice. We first did the Firehole Canyon drive, where we took a family picture, just like we did on our last visit - when Maggie was 2, and I was pregnant with Dalton. Ben we went to the paint pots. I took all the kids through the loop in the rain, and then went again with John, by which point the rain had moved on.

We went to the Grand Prismatic Spring area, where we left the girls behind on the first trip, then John took them for round two. Then John and the older kids hiked to the overlook, which looked amazing, but I decided to skip it. We then had lunch in the Old Faithful parking lot, and got to watch it erupt as a family, including Wally. I watched Wally while everyone else did a loop walk to see lots of other geysers (their favorite was Anemone geyser).

After Old Faithful, we drove to West Thumb. John and I left the kids to do a hike, but it took us three tries to find the trail we wanted, which was actually the boardwalk to lot of geysers and mud pots, some of which were IN the lake. We got sprinkled on a bit as we watched a huge storm pass over the other side of the lake. The boardwalk was so cool we decided I would take the kids through it. I retook a pic John and I did, in the same area, only with sun in the background. Ten minutes later, we were hurrying through pouring rain and hail, and super close lightning and thunder from another storm that blew in. Yikes. We drove in the rain back the way we came, and by the time we got to the Continental Divide sign we wanted to take a pic of, the sun was back.

On the way home we stopped at Biscuit Basin, where John and I walked around with the boys - lots of colorful pools, and did the other Firehole Lake drive. And saw some bison.

Joshua Tree: Our impromptu trip out to Joshua Tree was pretty much the exact opposite of the carefully planned, kid-free vacation to London and Amsterdam that John and I were supposed to be on right now. We barely researched, the traffic sucked, kids threw up, we made a masked detour to Walmart for new clothes, and dinner was several hours late. But for a few hours, I forgot about coronavirus, and we enjoyed rocks, sunset, and stars, and fresh air.

We also went with our neighbors, which is not technically allowed, and we don’t even care.

Caribbean Christmas Cruise: Cruise Notes

Day 1 - Welcome Aboard
The first day i had two Mickey ice cream bars.
We had the exciting opportunity to see the new Star Wars movie premiere on board! Our rooms were right above the main theater, so it was so close. The kids went in their pajamas. Arthur watched 1 1/2 hours of the movie, which was fantastic. he movie was great, but it was especially excited to see it on opening day.

Day 2 - At Sea
Apparently the sea is rough in the Gulf of Mexico in the winter. We had scheduled a Disney junior breakfast. Sienna threw up. Luckily she got to meet Vampirina at least. Maggie and i were also sick. But I had a fun afternoon sipping ginger ale and making up Disney ship names with Maggie on deck 4.

Day 3 - Cozumel
For our Cozumel excursion, we did a Beach break at a resort with inflatable water slides and obstacle course out in the ocean, pool with slides and tons of baby slides, all you can drink, and all you can eat, kayaking, and more. I carried Sienna on my back out to the inflatables, which she hated. Got dunked in the ocean on our way back, and then she got stung by a jellyfish. I think they were moon jellies. The paramedic sprayed it with vinegar and put some cream on it and the swelling and itching went away, and she had a strawberry daiquiri that helped the rest. Luckily, she freaked out a lot less about being stung than she did being worried about being stung.

We all went out kayaking together, three in a kayak. Other than the jellies, we saw one school of tiny silver fish. We did see some cool tropical fish right off the port when we got off the ship. John swam back out to the inflatables with the older kids, who had a lot of fun doing that. And we made it back onto the ship before it rained.

Arthur wanted to see the princesses when John mentioned it, so after dinner we saw Ariel and Belle. Belle was wearing a beautiful Christmas dress.

Maggie is ordering every seafood item on the menu, and I’m enjoying my nightly Mickey bar.

Day 4 - Grand Cayman
We took it easy this morning, with breakfast at the actual restaurant, and a couple loads of laundry. Then we dropped the little two off at kids club and headed over to Grand Cayman Island. Unfortunately, the snuba tour we had scheduled got canceled. We were able to get on a tour to Stingray City, but we sat around waiting on the hot, humid sun for an hour in the meantime. I thought the stingrays were awesome. We took a bus, then a boat, out there. We stood around in waist deep water, snorkeling with them, petting them, and I even got to hold one. It felt like a heavy slippery dog trying to dance with me.

We barely made it back in time to clean up for Pirate Mardi Gras dinner. Arthur was obsessed with Tiana at the restaurant. It was adorable. He was concerned that she lost a feather from her boa. She said to him, “What’s your name, honey?”

After dinner, we waited in line to meet Pirate Chip and Dale, and Pirate Mickey. The Pirate Mickey family picture is one of my favorites from the whole trip.

Day 5 - Jamaica
Christmas Even in Jamaica! We split up on this day, so John could take Maggie horseback riding in the Caribbean Sea. The younger kids and I went to Dunn' River Falls, where we climbed up a 160 foot waterfall that empties into the Caribbean Sea. Our group all held hands in a line and there was a guide (and some dads) to help, otherwise I never would have made it with Sienna and Arthur. It was so cool though, hiking up a waterfall in the middle of the jungle. Maggie and John also did that as part of their tour.

The other thing we did was take a chair lift up Mystic Mountain. It started raining in the middle of the ride. Fun times. Luckily we were wearing swim suits, and already drenched from the waterfall. We didn't have time to do any of the Mystic Mountain activities besides eat. We barely made it back to the boat in time as it was. John and Maggie did not. Their bus was over an hour late, and that was with a police escort.

We got to greet Santa and enjoy a brief snow shower. That night Arthur wouldn’t go to sleep. When John and I got back from working out/hot tubbing late at night, the room was a mess and the first thing he said was, “I ate Santa’s cookie.”

Day 6 - Christmas at Sea
Santa came, of course, hiding the kids small presents around our rooms. After that we went to wait in line to see him. While we waited in line, John took the kids to gingerbread cookie decorating.

We went to an adult brunch that morning, with all sorts of delicious things. I ate so much food. That afternoon we saw Frozen musical and Dalton went to the first of many magic workshops.

Day 7 - Last Sea Day
In the morning, we went to the pool and enjoyed the waterslides to ourselves before it got crowded. Then we saw Frozen 2 in the packed movie theater. John and I continued out gym/hot tub dates at night. So convenient.

After the cruise, we spent a few days in Houston. We first went to the Texas City dike for look for sea glass. The beach was covered in trash, some of which was glass, some of which was frosted. Kind of disappointed. Nathan and Ashley came down and we stopped at Buc-ee's on the way to their house, for lunch and treats. We spent most of our time with their family binge-watching The Mandalorian, playing Boggle, and eating tacos.

One day John took the older kids to see Jumanji 2 with his brother, so Ashley and I took the little kids to explore downtown Houston. We went to Penzey's spices, a cool nursery, saw some murals and went to a fun park, after the kids voted against the aquarium. We also had more tacos (yes) and fancy ice cream.

The last part of our trip was spent with our good friends, the Walkers. It was so great to see them. We took a long walk, played Big Boggle, and stayed up way too late talking. The kids got along terrifically as well.

Catalina: For my birthday, John planned a overnight getaway to Catalina. We flew over in a helicopter, ate dinner at a fancy restaurant, lay around on the beach, went on a glass bottom boat tour, walked around Avalon, visited the spa, and lay around some more. Oh, and hunted for sea glass (found tons). It was very relaxing and just what we needed.

Siblings Weekend: To celebrate Leonard's 40th birthday (early), Rachel and I surprised him with a weekend visit over Memorial Day weekend. We made a big list of fun things to do and met him at breakfast (he thought he was meeting a friend) and made him pick everything he wanted to do and show us around the city.

Some of the fun things we did included the aerial tram and walking tour of Roosevelt Island, ferry to Long Island, The Play That Goes Wrong (SO FUNNY), cheesecake, Museum of the Moving Image, Socrates Sculpture Park, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, dinner at Craft, Guggenheim art museum, and lots more. It was a busy four days, but we had a great time. It was so fun to be together just the three of us, and loved just visiting with each other.

Bonus: One of my favorite memories from our sibling weekend in NYC. Rachel's hobby of taking 1 second videos from her travels led to my new hobby of ruining her videos (I'm the middle child, obviously). I stole her phone and made my own video, 45 seconds of me being annoying, ridiculous, or just laughing loudly in the background, cropped from her 4 minute video. And a few of the many she took from behind unsuspecting me. Sisters make the best Instagram husbands.

Bonus #2: Explaining "Instagram husband" to Leonard.

Fancy New Executive: For John's promotion, we went to Orlando for training meetings and fun. We went a little early and spent our first morning at Animal Kingdom, going on rides I didn't get to do last time because I was pregnant with Arthur. That evening, we ditched the dinner and went to Hollywood Studios for another roller coaster (yay), Tower of Terror (boo) and Fantasmic.

The next day, I went with the other spouses on a Wild Florida airboat ride on a lake where we saw interesting plants and lots of different birds. Then we explored the little wildlife zoo - lots of alligators. Did I mention it was 45 degrees? Aka freezing. The boat would have been a lot more fun if it had been a lot warmer.

That night, the company rented out Universal Studios (!). We hung out in Diagon Alley, escaped from Gringott's twice and drank a lot of butter beer. All the food was free. We had ice cream from Fortescue's, chili dogs, Korean beef tacos, Chinese food. That and more was just there for the taking, and I'm all about free food.

Which was the main awesome part of the whole trip. During the conference, there were meals served. And on the airplane! I didn't have to cook a thing, or feed anyone.

Speaking of not feeding people, we left the kids with a couple in the ward. They have a 1 year old and stayed at our house and I paid them and it was amazing. That was our main expense. Otherwise, we bought Disney tickets, dinner at Disney the one night, one Uber ride, and a Mickey ice cream bar.

Disney Cruise: For my birthday/mother's day/15th anniversary, we went on a four-night Disney Cruise to Cabo. It was so fun! The whole family loved it. The kids loved the kids club, Arthur loved the characters, we had fun at the pools and enjoyed the shows and the food and the peace and quiet. In Cabo, John took Maggie, Sienna and Arthur to the beach, and Dalton and I went on a zipline adventure. We ziplined upside down, tandem, rock climbed, and scooted across the river on a cable. It was very exciting.

The cruise was also Halloween themed which added a whole other level of fun. We dressed as Peter Pan characters this year. John was Peter Pan, Sienna was Tinkerbell, Maggie was Tiger Lily, and Arthur, Dalton and I were Michael, John and Wendy. Arthur as Michael was the cutest thing ever. I heard a lot of "awww"s about our family costumes as we walked by and more than one turned into double "AWW!" when they saw little Arthur toddling in a pink sleeper with his teddy.

Arthur refused to eat anything but french fries, but was otherwise pretty good. He slept well at night, and crashed randomly a few times. At the Halloween party, he was dancing with Dale one minute, and asleep on me the next.

Also a funny moment: Our rooms were across from each other, so we popped back and forth a lot, especially to use the other bathroom. When I was getting Arthur ready for bed, I found myself chasing naked Arthur in the hallway while wearing my Wendy costume and a neighbor said, "Only on a Disney Cruise."

John booked us another cruise for next Christmas, so more adventure to come.

New York City: NYC day 1: Lounged around all morning, grocery shopping, checking out the rooftop pool and playing iPad. We got into the city around 2 and met Leonard at the NYPL for a tour. The building was so cool, and I liked seeing the actual Winnie-the-Pooh friends.

After that we went to the American Museum of Natural History. Arthur loves seeing the dinosaurs. Maggie asked about seeing the Easter island statue, so we saw that too.

Next we had hot dogs and waffles in Central Park, climbed on the rocks, played hide and seek and played in a playground.

We had tickets for Top of the Rock in the evening. The little two, who are both sick, were about done at this point. But on the flip side, Dalton finally seemed to be having fun.

Then we walked over to Times Square and hung out while John got some Juniors cheesecake for dessert. We got a bit lost on the way home, so made an unexpected stop at the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.

Day 2: We took a 1:00 ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. So cool! We’ve never been up close before. Of course it suddenly started pouring and we sheltered under a tree for 20 minutes before continuing our visit.

The boat next took us to Ellis Island, which was pretty neat. Arthur enjoyed the boat rides.

After making it back to the main island, we went to the 26th Street pier where they have free kayaking on Thursday nights. John took Maggie out, and I went with Dalton. While John and Maggie were waiting, it started pouring again. Luckily it didn’t last long. And there was no thunder so we got to have our turns. The volunteers running the thing were so sweet, one of them got otter pops out for all our kids.

We walked back to the World Trade Center station to cross the river, and got to see the 9/11 memorial in the day time this time.

Day 3: We took the train all the way to Rockaway where we bought subway sandwiches, more beach towels, and spent a few hours enjoying the Atlantic. Dalton and John got in the water and went out body surfing. Maggie ran around. Sienna lay on a towel, and Arthur played in the sand with a paper cup. A great time was had by all.

After dinner, Maggie and I went to our first Broadway show: The Lion King! It was amazing. The effects, dancing, cool animal costumes. It was really neat. We got a piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake from Junior’s next door, and snuck it in. Maggie was appalled at our rule-breaking, but not enough that she didn’t eat her fair share!

Day 4: Saturday we met Leonard at the New York Transit Museum, after lots of train trouble. The kids loved it, especially the little two, and Arthur was in heaven. There were dozens of actual subway trains on actual subway tracks under the museum, from different times in the last century. It was so fun to play in them and to see the old advertisements. There were also old turnstiles and a ticket booth they had fun playing with.

We had lunch at Shake Shack, then tried to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately it was closed to traffic that direction due to a protest ending. So we took the subway to the other side and walked up to the first pillar. It was really hot, and we took advantage of people selling ice cream and $1 cold food water bottles. That was about all we managed to do today, but it was a fun outing.

Day 5: The Central Park zoo was small (and hot) but exciting. We watched the sea lions be fed, and then spent lots of time with the penguins. There was also a small children’s zoo that the kids enjoyed. John and Dalton went to see Wicked after this, while the other kids and I walked to Chopt to meet Leonard.

With Leonard, we walked through Central Park to the turtle pond. Unfortunately the castle was closed, but we got to go in the Shakespeare garden where Leonard and Sumana were married. And the turtles were everywhere. Did I mention it was hot?

Sienna: Can we each get our own ice cream?
Me: I’m not buying five ice creams.
L: Ooh I will! Can I be the fun uncle?

Leonard walked us back to the subway and I managed to get the three kids (plus stroller) back to New Jersey in their respective one pieces.

Day 6: Our last day was spent at Coney Island, and on the train getting there. It was 1 1/2-2 hour train ride, which no one complained about. The kids all loved riding the subway. We went to Luna park, bought $100 of points to use, and took turns going on trill rides, kiddie rides, and playing games. We bought an $8 Icee with unlimited refills (we had at least 6) and had subway for lunch again. The Cyclone, original roller coaster was thrilling. It felt very unsafe, which was half the fun. Definitely no Disney. That evening, John went back into town and had dinner with Sumana.

Girls Trip to San Diego: This weekend was the long-awaited girls trip John told me to take. After he mentioned it and my neighbor and I started some planning, another friend who recently moved out of state texted and asked if I wanted to do something this summer, so she came along, too. We stayed in La Jolla and did all the "hidden adventures in San Diego" we could find. We didn’t spend money on any of our activities (except $5 cave entrance). We felt like we ate extravagantly, but since we only ate two meals a day, and didn't feed five other people, it didn’t seem to add up to as much as we thought. The whole trip only cost me about $250.

We tried to theme the weekend "Tacos" but we kept coming up with more themes as we went around. Tacos. Breakfast. Breakfast tacos. Hidden adventures. Secret spots. Giant succulents. Slot Canyons.

Saturday morning we went down to Shell Beach to find sea glass. WE had brunch at Hashhouse Gogo and went to the spruce street suspension bridge and quince street trestle bridge, just fun little spots in downtown. Then we went to Balboa Park, walked around admiring architecture, and the botanical building. After a flight of ice cream at Hammonds, a little rest, and our fourth outfit change, we went to hike the trail to Black's Beach. This was so fun! And it was great to be hiking with people who kept exclaiming "this is so fun!" instead of whining. We climbed some unstable cliffs, hid in slot canyons, skidded on sandstone, crossed some 4x4 "bridges" and descended the last dozen yards holding onto a muddy rope. The beach wasn't much to write home about, but the hike was awesome. After dinner at Prep Kitchen, we hit the hot tub, and went to bed feeling energized.

The next day after sea glass hunting, we got in the car to drive to Brockton Villa for brunch... only to drive around the block the very long way and end up luckily finding a spot 10 feet further than where we had just been parked. And walking to the restaurant a few hundred yards away. Hah! But that's what memories are made of.

We walked up to the Cave Store and descended into the tunnel to see the sea cave. We watched Sea Lions. Then we spent some time driving around looking for the Secret Swing. Which we found! Another fun hidden adventure. Next, we drove down south to Sunset Cliffs to do some more sketchy sandstone cliff exploring. After that we headed home, but we had one more stop. Annie's Canyon was a short little slot canyon hike, 1/2 mile off the road. It had little caves to climb up into, and even a ladder. The kids would have loved it, and you can even do the canyon loop a couple times.

By the time we got home Sunday night, I was covered in scrapes and bruises, which, as I always tell my kids, means I was having fun.

Morro Bay Whirlwind Tour: Rachel, Brett and Theo came to visit and Leonard and I stayed in Morro Bay with the kids so we could attend the Sip n See. We had a few hours to kill so we did a bit of a whirlwind tour of the city.

On our way into town, we drove up to Moonstone Beach to look for sea glass, then further to the Elephant Seal viewpoint. We also saw Hearst Castle and the zebras from the road.

The next morning we hit the future Morro Bay Maritime Museum (currently a couple cool sea vessels in a parking lot), the Strand beach with Morro Rock viewing and sand dollar collecting, and the Brown Butter Cookie Co in Cayucos. On the way down to Aunt Pat's, we drove through Morro Bay State Park, and stopped at the natural history museum there -$3 for adults, and the kids were free. It was a neat little museum with lots of hands on activities, a beautiful view, and some cool whale bones.

I See London: For my birthday/kindness points/new auntiness, I got to go to London for 8 days to visit Rachel, Brett and their new baby Theo. It was a very fun and relaxing trip. I pretty much snuggled Theo, did stuff around the flat, and went for long walks with my sister.

We did some organizing and decluttering. I hemmed some curtains. We returned baby gifts and walked back from the mall via the Olympic Park. We wandered in the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park near the flat. We went for a touristy walk up the Victoria Embankment, across Westminster Bridge, back down the south bank, stopping for Greek street food and the view from Tate Modern, and walking back across to St. Paul's. And we walked down the canal to the river and back in the rain. Theo slept a lot while we walked, so we walked a lot.

Rachel and Brett are good parents, and Theo is a good baby. It was a pleasure to hang out on their home, cooking, playing games, and lots of laughing.

I was pretty glad to get back to my own babies, even though they're much more difficult. I'm sure John was glad to have me back, too. It was an exhausting week for him.

Hawaii: We went to Hawaii! We picked the big island, because we like to do more than hang out at the beach, and there is lots to do there. We stayed in Waikoloa, at a condo, but we had pool access at the Hilton resort. As soon as we landed, we bought Dramamine for Dalton, who threw up in the car, the shuttle bus, the airplane, and the Kona airport while John was purchasing the medicine. Luckily, that was the last of illness for anyone on our trip. Next, we went to Costco and bought food for our stay. We saved a lot of money doctoring up premade stuff from Costco, and eating cereal at the condo for breakfast.

Tuesday we went to a nearby beach. We rented a double kayak and paddled around the bay. Arthur slept nearly two hours in the sand. The kayak was so fun, we all got to try it, and it was only $50 for 2 hours. Money well spent.

Wednesday was a long day. We drove around the south side of the island (the long way). We stopped at a black sand beach, which was so cool to see, but we didn't see any sea turtles. I did find a couple pieces of sea glass though. Next, we went to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Maggie has a free national parks pass for fourth graders, so we got in free! We looked at the craters with the binoculars, wandered around the steam vents, and hiked in the dark through a lava tube. Pretty cool!

We went up to Hilo for John and the older kids to do a helicopter ride. They got to see lava in the crater, and also hitting the ocean.

The littles and I had just under two hours to kill in Hilo during the helicopter tour. We went to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Free, and awesome. I wish we'd had more time to spend. Sienna loved all the benches decorated as animals and flowers. There was also an awesome playground. Unfortunately, it was too hot to enjoy either, but it's usually rainy (Rainforest Zoo... get it?). We saw tigers, lemurs, all sorts of tropical birds, anteaters.

Then we went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. As we drove through the macadamia nut orchards, I told Sienna the story of auntie Rachel getting a macadamia nut stuck in her nose. She came back with "we could get things out of our nose. We can get boogers out of our nose."

Thursday was another rest day. We went to a new beach. It had trees shading the shore, and a rope swing. We were able to see some fish swimming around while we floated on boogie boards in the warm, clear water, and some crabs in the rocks along the edge of the cove. We went to the pool just outside our condo in the evening. So convenient that we left the older kids at home playing Roblox.

Friday we drove around the north side of the island. We had malasadas, went to a few points of interest then stopped at a famous sea glass beach for me. Unfortunately the tide wasn't great, and the beach was difficult to access. But Dalt and I scrambled down and found a few pieces while the others waited in the car. Then we went to Rainbow Falls, definitely the highlight. Everyone had a blast climbing the banyan trees and playing in the shade. We also climbed over the rocks and dipped our toes into the pools at the top of the falls. Our final stop was the Mauna Kea visitor center, where we were hopping to use the solar telescope. But the whole mountain was shrouded in mist. Disappointing, but the Rainbow Falls made up for it.

Saturday we took turns doing a submarine cruise. We wanted to do zip lining but even Maggie didn't weigh enough. We picked the submarine because Sienna was big enough, and she didn't get to do the helicopter. On the girls' trip, we saw three little dolphins, a barracuda, and a lot of different fish. It was pretty cool just to be on the submarine.

In the evening we went for one last swim at the Hilton pool. Water slides, hot tub, towels we didn't have to carry to the car. We also saw a sea turtle in their lagoon.

Then we took the red eye home. Yikes. Arthur slept on the airplane floor for three hours. Everyone but Sienna crashed when we got home. It's bedtime and we're all exhausted! Hopefully we can reset after tonight. What a fun trip. John always plans the most fun things. The kids had trouble picking a favorite thing. I liked the Rainbow Falls and kayaking the best probably. But everything we did was great! Actually, maybe my favorite was John not working. Hurray for actual vacation!

Disneyland Paris: Sunday: We took the Eurostar to Paris and went to Walt Disney Studios Park. The best part of this day was getting a sneak peek of the new Ratatouille ride, which officially opened the day after we left. We also popped into Disneyland Paris, but Sienna was so done by this point, I had to just take her back to the hotel. We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge, with a nice Western America theme... for reals, we stayed in the Yellowstone Lodge.

Monday was our Paris tour. We stopped at the Louvre where we spent most of our time looking for a crepe stand. Then we went on a Seine river boat tour, and up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. We were kind of bored on the river boat tour, having just seen lots of old buildings in London. This is just not our thing, especially with kids. We would have preferred walking along the river, perhaps with a picnic, but it just wasn't feasible. John took the kids to the hotel pool after the tour. They LOVED it, with a water slide and a giant yoga mat thing they could walk on the water with.

It was fun to go on the Eiffel tower with the kids. The queue for the lift back down was long, so we walked down all the stairs! Sienna even walked most of the stairs down, because she is a trooper like that. Then, we got more crepes, and some nice pictures.

Tuesday we went to Disneyland Paris to do it justice. We took advantage of 2 hours of Magic Morning. The first thing we did was go on Peter Pan. Twice in a row. With no one else anywhere nearby. Sienna cried. We did most of Fantasyland, then took turns on Space Mountain Mission 2. When the park officially opened at 10, it started raining, but we had come prepared. We took turns on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and went on the Haunted Manor ride. We explored Adventure Isle and went on Pirates. Had Mexican food (?) for lunch. Then we went back to the hotel for a nap.

We made it back to the park for the parade, and to finish up Fantasyland. Small world was fun, and we all really liked Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

Wednesday we went back to Walt Disney Studios, but we found there wasn't much to do since we didn't want to wait in line for adult coasters. We saw a couple shows, then left for lunch and more Disneyland Paris. We rode the train around, then did it's a small world and the girls rode the carousel one last time, while the boys did Pirates. We met at the stroller which had been sitting in the rain that whole time. Oops.

Then it was the train back to London for bed!

A Trip to Europe: Well, I am apparently not going to do a full travelogue on our trip to Europe, but here is a summary. Links to photo blog posts. (ETA: This turned out much longer than I anticipated and I separated Rachel's Wedding and Paris.)

Flight there: Within minutes of boarding, Dalton had charmed multiple flight attendants into fulfilling his every whim. How many flight attendants does it take to turn on Frozen? At least two. The kids watched a movie, ate dinner, then got a decent night's sleep. Sienna was a great sleeper, she slept a solid 8 hours in the bassinet.

We had great weather in London. Hardly any rain for 5 days. It rained most of the time we were in Paris, and a drizzle our last day in London, but we got all five of London's summer days.

Monday night: Arrive, fish 'n' chips with Rachel and Brett

Tuesday: St. Paul's Cathedral. We hiked to the top with Leonard. Then we met Rachel and went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, except we did no hopping off. We rode the bus for 4 hours, saw most of the city while the kids played and Sienna took a nap. That night I met some family members at an Italian restaurant for dinner.

Wednesday: Walked across Tower Bridge with Leonard, then around the Tower of London. A much shorter bridge walk than the last one we did with Leonard (Golden Gate). I think we can call this a fun tradition now that we walked at least three famous bridges.

Wednesday afternoon was our Harry Potter studio tour with Jill, Laura, Rachel and Rachel's friend Jenn. It was awesome. There were so many props and sets and costumes, as well as outdoor sets, creature exhibits. It was really neat to see, and the kids loved it, too! We got the kids pen wands for 10 pounds and they've enjoyed playing with them.

Thursday morning: We wanted to do the zoo, but we decided to let the kids sleep in, and there wasn't time. Instead we went to the London Science Museum, which had a lot of hands on stuff the kids enjoyed.

Thursday afternoon was the wedding rehearsal at Rachel's house. Then we went to pictures>The Crown Pub for dinner with the extended family and lots of friends. It was so fun to see many Whitney and Richardson relatives come all the way to London! I nursed Sienna to sleep in the pub, which struck me as odd, but keep reading; this was not the most awkward place I nursed her this trip.

Friday: We had planned to go to Warwick Castle, but I woke up feeling very unwell and Sienna was beyond grumpy. John and Leonard took the kids and Sienna and I stayed home to rest. My cousin Alyson had spent the night, so once Sienna and I were feeling rested (and less nauseous, bleh) the three of us went for a walk in Hyde Park. We rode the carousel, peeked at Kensington Palace, and saw the LDS church.

Saturday was Rachel and Brett's Wedding.

Sunday-Wednesday was in Paris.

Wednesday night we returned back to London and stayed at the Park Plaza hotel with a great view of the London Eye. The London Eye was our Thursday morning activity. It was really neat! The capsule felt so safe and secure, the kids enjoyed running around, and of course the view. Afterwards, we met Rachel and Brett for some breakfast before we headed to the airport. It was great to see them one last time.

The flight home wasn't quite as nice as the one out. I barely got an hour sleep, and Sienna was on me most of the flight. We counted it as a nap and went to bed when we got home. Still, no screaming was involved.

Save Here, Splurge There: So excited for our trip to Europe! We leave tonight!

I was just thinking how blessed, lucky, we've been (and what a smart planner I've married) because we haven't had to pay for this trip out of savings. We've carefully saved and paid for things as they came up, used our tax refund and cashed my WAH money to pay for everything in advance, with cash on hand for food and transportation and souvenirs. We've really paid for everything else already! All without taking money out of savings, or missing any of our regular savings transfers.

Rachel's long engagement and my working at home sure helped there. Plenty of time to save and plan, and earn a little extra.

We love to travel and are blessed we can save hard to do so.

Big Bear Lake: We are back from a relaxing long weekend in Big Bear. This vacation was planned before John's last minute business trip to Buenos Aires, and if we hadn't already paid for our rental condo, we would have cancelled. But we didn't and we had fun!

We went on the alpine slide. only two people could ride in the lift at a time, so Maggie got to go by herself. She also went on the slide by herself, and loved it. All the kids loved the slide. It was not nearly as long ast the one in Park City and pretty dinged up and bumpy, but we had a great time.

We also took the lift at Snow Summit up to do some hiking. We did the 1 mile mountain top loop, which is plenty of hiking with the kids. There was some rock scrambling and some animal spotting action as well.

Then we went on a cruise around the lake on the Miss Liberty. Sienna did not fully appreciate it. As in, she ran around the whole time, barefoot because we were afraid she was going to throw her shoes overboard. But it was a nice tour.

We made another stop at the alpine slide on our way out of town. A great view from the top and a little energy out before the vomit-inducing car ride home.

Santa Barbara: Leonard and Rachel came out for our cousin Eric's wedding this weekend. I was able to only go up on Saturday for one night because of the Beep. I drove up Saturday morning and met Leonard, Rachel and Brett at Silvergreen's for breakfast. So. Good. I had a breakfast sandwich with egg, bacon, cheese, turkey and avocado. We also had a granola berry smoothie that was so sweet and delicious.

After breakfast, we went to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. The ceremony was in the Santa Barbara Mission. It was a Catholic Wedding Mass and it was lovely without being long and boring.

In between the wedding and the reception we went back to Silvergreen's to get more smoothies. Then we went to visit Pat and Alan in their room at the Bacara resort where the reception was held. There was a cocktail reception, formal dinner and dancing. The salad was the best part of dinner. There was golden beets, grilled carrots, tomatoes, avocado, white wine vinegar dressing, and goat cheese crostini. So good.

Leonard and I left early 'cause we're boring like that. In the morning we went back over to the resort for breakfast with all the family. The breakfast buffet was amazing. I had potatoes, french toast with piles of fresh berries, fresh orange juice and really good Ghirardelli hot chocolate.

Leonard and I drove home after breakfast and now we have a few days to spend together before he continues his trip.

California: The Lighter Side: Here are a few quotes and funny happenings I wrote down from our California trip.

Garry to Dalton: Pink can be your favorite color. Just don't tell anyone about it.

Dalton (asleep): Waaaaaah! The alligator is going to bite me!

Maggie: Can I have some of those chips like Aunt Rachel likes?

Dalton, praying at Uncle Leonard's house: Thank you we could look for the kitties.

Maggie: Volcano interrupted. (I think she was telling Dalton a story about dinosaurs, but she kept saying the volcano "interrupted" instead of "erupted")

One of the funniest moments in Yosemite was when we were eating lunch and overheard a mother reacting to her teenage son throwing his retainer in a bear-proof trash can.

We saw a coyote standing by the side of the road, basically begging for food. That was pretty much the only wildlife we saw.

Dalton, hiking in 90 degree weather: I want to go back to the two cabins because I'm cold.

California Here We Come: Day 1: We drove to Aunt Pat's house. We stopped in Beullton for lunch at Pea Soup Andersen's, and then went to Solvang so John could see if it was a fun as he remembered (it was). In between, we went to Ostrichland. Cheaper than Disneyland, scarier than Jurassic Park. We fed the ostriches and emus and did not get bit. In Solvang, John got a bear claw and some marzipan and we walked around and looked at the quaintness and windmills.

Day 2: We've both wanted to go to Hearst Castle for a long time, so we finally went. It was $25 each for the bus and tour, rip-off, but it was cool to see. We enjoyed the bus ride and the grounds, especially the fancy pools and seeing his personal zoo polar bear cages! We even spotted the zebras feeding with the cattle.

We also stopped at the elephant seal viewing area to check out those cool creatures. And finally went to Moonstone beach on our way back to Los Osos. The kids and I went sea-glass hunting while John stayed with sleeping Sienna in the car. It was a pretty cool beach. The kids enjoyed playing with their cousins. They colored with Leah and Joel taught Maggie how to play baseball in the backyard. Garry and Joan drove down to see us, also. Garry and Sienna have the same reddish blond hair. I hope I get a strawberry girl!

Day 3: We drove to San Francisco. Since rain was predicted for Monday, we decided to do one of our activities earlier and went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. And of course, it rained on us. We walked about 1/4 of the way in the rain and wind and still enjoyed it, even thought we couldn't see much. After, we went to Leonard and Jeff's and had a great dinner made by Jeff.

Day 4: We headed up to Muir Woods, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (Maggie's favorite part) and not realizing we needed Dramamine. Both kids threw up just as we were arriving. Ugh. We had to park reallllly far from the parking lot. John took the kids in the umbrella stroller (which died on the way) and I finished cleaning out the car and carried Sienna. We bought Dalton a new shirt, then enjoyed the trees on a 1 mile walk.

After the hike, we went to Fisherman's Wharf where we had soup in bread bowls at Boudin, went for a walk, and bought candy at a candy shop. We parked on top of a parking structure so we had great views of the city and the bay, which was finally clear. Another great dinner by Jeff greeted us when we got back.

Day 5: Tuesday we headed to Yosemite. We stopped at Costco for provisions. We were the first in the family to arrive at the cabins, and made dinner for everyone. John did a treasure hunt for the little kids.

Day 6: We drove into Yosemite Valley, went on a very long walk to the Yosemite Falls. John took each of the kids scrambling on the large rocks at the base of the falls, which was very exciting. A highlight of the trip for all three of them. We ate a packed lunch, then went to Bridalveil Fall. More rock scrambling.

Day 7: On Thursday, we got up early and drove to Curry Village to do the Vernal Fall hike. This was adults and nursing babies only. Maggie and Dalton stayed behind with Grandma, Sabrina, Kyli and Morgan to play with. Dalton followed Sabrina around, and Maggie really enjoyed playing checkers with Morgan. The cabin had some awesome swings in the trees, and lots to do outside, so they all had fun.

The hike was awesome. A moderate climb up to the base of the fall. Then, we began climbing steps carved into the granite cliffs, under the spray of the water. We were worried it wouldn't be safe to carry the babies up the steps but it turned out fine. It was a hard climb, though. At the top, there was an emerald pool, and plenty of shady spots to rest and have a snack. Then we had to climb back down all those big steps. We got back to the cabins around 2, but were too exhausted to do much else. John, Sienna, Jamie, Dave and I went for a drive on the cabin dirt road to find the nearest river. It took a lot longer than we thought.

Day 8: Finally a lazy day. Half the group drove down to see Sequoia trees. We, Franco and Jodi decided to have a more relaxing day. We drove to Glacier Point and had lunch and popsicles there. Did a little bit of boulder climbing for the kids, and enjoyed the amazing view, including the view of Vernal Fall where we had just hiked. We were planning to do a short hike, but John and Franco had sore backs and the kids were whiny and it was hot, so we gave up on that. Instead we went to Bridalveil Fall, and played in the pools of the stream. The kids had so much fun splashing around. The last stop was another tour of the valley, and a stop at the gift shop to buy a Christmas ornament and a magnet. We had a really great time hanging out with Jodi and Franco that day.

Day 9: The drive home. We left about 10:45 and got home by 7. We stopped at Dewar's in Bakersfield, but it was 111 degrees, so we didn't stay long. We just wanted to get home. Thanks to John for doing most of the driving. He had me drive for a while, but I had taken a Dramamine in the morning and I was SO tired!

Holly Stars: John planned a great getaway this weekend to Hollywood. We stayed at the iconic Hotel Angeleno right off the 405 at Santa Monica. I didn't realize that was the hotel until I was figuring out the directions to go there. It was really nice. There was a wall covered in black stones, and the kids enjoyed bubbles and a jump rope picked from a treasure box at the front desk. Sleeping with everyone in the same room could have been a lot worse. I guess.

After we checked in, we headed to Arby's to pick up some dinner, then found our way to Lake Hollywood park. It's an unofficial dog park, so we had some visitors for dinner. Luckily, the children's play area has a fence around it. The kids loved the park, and even Sienna got to enjoy the swings. After playing, we hiked up the hill a bit to take pictures with the Hollywood sign.

It was nearly dark when we got back to our hotel. We took the elevator up to the top floor to look out at the city and the huge, rising moon.

On Saturday, we were all up much too early. We decided to visit the temple first. We drove to the Los Angeles temple and walked around the grounds and took some pictures. Then we went to the visitor's center and saw some church films and shared that with the kids.

After the temple we drove to Hollywood and Highland and found some parking. Then we began our search for "Holly Stars" as Dalton interpreted the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars. We found all the Disney characters and apparently Disneyland itself has a star. Also saw Harry Potter, Star Wars, and of course lots more.

We took the Metro subway and a free shuttle to Universal CityWalk to have lunch and walk around a bit. A girl gave us some unopened packages of chips they wouldn't let her take into the park.

We went back to the Walk of Fame and found Mickey Mouse, which we missed earlier because of the crowd around Michael Jackson. Then we got in the car and drove home. The drive home was much nicer. Sienna slept the whole way and it took about half as long.

Travel Bug: This post has been a long time coming. Lately, John and I have both had the beginnings of an itch to go somewhere. I'm wondering if these two of my highest desires conflict: one being home and the other being travel. I've decided not because at the root of it all is my family. John recalled a recent talk my L. Tom Perry where he quoted a letter he wrote to his mother saying, "You and Dad were never going on vacations alone. The family was always with you." Home is where the heart is. And I do like to drag my family all around the world (my easy-going personality makes that actually fun instead of miserable). And if we have more kids, we'll drag them. And when we have grand babies, we'll give them the opportunity. And when we're old and gray and have only each other, we'll be one of those adorable couples getting terrific use out of their Senior Pass to the National Parks, and working at Disney World.

I don't know where I'm going with this. The expiration of our Disney passes is just around the corner. We looked into some things for our trip to San Diego this summer and that helped. We are also planning a trip up the coast and to Yosemite to meet John's family. But it's not quite scratching that itch. From Tom Waits' song Shiver Me Timbers: My body's at home, but my heart’s in the wind

A few travel quotes I've collected:

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. – St. Augustine

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by. – Robert Frost

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. – Lao Tzu

Not all those who wander are lost. – J. R. R. Tolkien

Travellers never think that they are the foreigners. – Mason Cooley

There is no happiness for the person who does not travel. For Indra is the friend of the traveler, therefore wander! - Brahmann

Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken. - Frank Herbert

A few India specific travel quotes:

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. –Lao Tzu

Embrace the detours. - Kevin Charbonneau

When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you're visiting. - Clint Borgen

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it. – Rudyard Kipling

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect. – Paul Theroux

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. - James A. Michener

What I Love About Disneyland: This morning, when we got off the tram at Downtown Disney, there was a crowd of cast members wearing Mickey gloves lining the sidewalk, waving, high-fiving, and welcoming everyone. Of course, Maggie hung her head in embarrassment and refused to acknowledged anyone, but the rest of us thought it was awesome. This is what I love about Disneyland.

Disneyland isn't just a place to go ride rides. The entire park is an experience. There's always something unexpected or magical that will make the whole day more fun. A marching band being led down Main Street by Mickey Mouse. After tea yoga with the Mad Hatter. Cast members handing out stickers or buttons. "Racing tickets" at Autopia. Hidden Mickeys. Etc. Always something special. I love Disneyland.

The Great Salt Lake: I like to pretend I'm not going to miss much about Utah. But one thing I will miss is outings with my cousin Jill. We have done all kinds of stuff together over the past few years, including a visit to Kennecott Copper Mine last week and an upcoming trip to the zoo. Today was our third trip to the Great Salt Lake. Dalton was throwing up all morning, so he stayed behind. I picked up Jill and Kristan and we drove out to Saltair.

This was our most successful lake adventure. Kristan and I floated in the water, Maggie played in the mud, Jill took pictures. The water level had risen considerably since our last visit to Saltair 3 years ago, so we did not have to walk a mile to get to the water line. Also, there were very few bugs and the water was very warm. Saltair itself is pretty trashy, but I highly recommend this beach. Also, it's free. Two years ago, we went to Antelope Island with a bunch of my cousins and my aunt Sharon. The water was much colder there, it's a longer drive, and it's $9 to get in. I remember Sharon held Dalton while we swam and he cried the whole time.

Moab Day 1 (Arches): We left a day early for our trip to Arches to take advantage of today's awesome weather. It was around 70 with a nice breeze/howling wind (depending on where we were). We carried the kids on the hike to Delicate Arch (3 miles). As we rounded the corner to the view, Dalton started chanting in my ear, "Edna Mode. Edna Mode." He loves E! We had a snack at Delicate. It was pretty windy up there.

Next we went to Sand Dune Arch and played, and finally hiked 1 mile to Landscape Arch. We decided to go up a bit (hah!) further to Partition Arch. Climbing up the sand fins with the kids was fun. I love that view though, and the kids liked that one, too. Maggie was a great sport and walked the whole way back down to Landscape. Climbing on the "red mountain" was the part she'd been waiting for.

The 1 mile back to the parking lot from Landscape was horribly windy right in our faces. We were carrying the kids (sans packs) and practically running to get out of it.

We hiked about 6 miles today and are definitely feeling it. We wanted to do as much as possible today because it's supposed to rain. Rain + slick rock = scary. Rain + red sand = clay. (Been there, done that.) So we just have a few little hikes and the visitor's center for tomorrow. We're also going to Dead Horse Point State Park. Yay!

[Comments] (1) It Rained All Night the Day I Left: Just a few more notes and quotes from our California trip. I drove home yesterday through 3 snowstorms. Yay.

People keep asking me if my kids slept on the trip. 31 hours of driving later, I think it's safe to say the answer is "no." Dalton took a 1 hour nap on the way down, but that was it.

Seen on storage tanks on the side of the freeway: Gasoline. Diesel. Rocket Fuel.

Best Jungle Cruise joke ever: There's something you don't see every day. But I do. Every seven and a half minutes. Stay in school, kids.

Maggie when the Disneyland railroad pulled into the Toontown station. Right next to the Princess Fantasy Faire. "This is NOT our stop!"

Dalton woke up this morning and regaled me with all the rides we went on. "Dumbo fly! Pirate ship fly! Small world. Racing. Racing. Buzz. Light. Year." Etc. Too cute.

Pictures are up. Enjoy.

[Comments] (1) Elephant Seals and Sand Dollars: This morning, Pat and I drove the kids up past Hearst Castle to see the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. It's the height of birthing season and there were hundreds of seals lying on the beach - light-colored mamas, black babies and HUGE males. It was really interesting to watch, but it was realllly cold.

We had lunch (fish and chips for the kids!) with a view of the harbor seals and the rock. Then we went to the beach at Morro Rock and collected dozens of sand dollars in the low tide. The kids loved it. Maggie washed them all when we got home (Dalton was too grumpy after late nights playing with cousins and took a nap).

We had dinner with Shannon and Shaun at the golf club and the kids practically jumped into bed when we got back. Pictures from our trip to Los Osos.

[Comments] (1) Disneyland, Day 1: We got off to a slow start on Saturday, with Maggie complaining of an ear infection. John took her to the instacare, and I picked up a prescription after our drive to California. She survived. Sunday we spent All Day at Disneyland/DCA. Here are the highlights.

No rain predicted.
We go outside; it's raining.
See Mickey in Disneyland before it's even open. Dalton runs up and give him a big hug. Maggie runs away. Hmm. That's familiar: that's exactly what happened when we saw Santa.
We buy Dalton a $43 sweater.
M goes on Space Mountain with Mom. She doesn't like it.
M goes on Star Tours with Dad and loves it.
M goes on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with Dad and loves it.
M sees a pattern. Dalton cries at Woody and Jessie.
M goes on Splash Mountain with Dad and loves it (the pattern continues).
Dalton is persuaded to see Tigger, then Eeyore, then he gives up and runs to Pooh to give him a hug. Maggie, true to her word, is not afraid of Winnie-the-Pooh (and Friends).
Dalton goes on Winnie the Pooh for the third time and signs more (while Maggie gets Splash Mountain turns (and soaking wet)).
Maggie doesn't complain about her wet shoes, socks, and undies at all the rest of the day.
The tippity-top of Dalton's head barely touches the 35" mark (which amazes the cast members), and he gets to ride Gadget's Go-Coaster.
We see Mickey again in California Adventure and Maggie is persuaded to see him.
Maggie goes on Soarin' Over California (with Dad, of course) and loves it.
After Maggie and I go on Soarin' Over California, it is raining again, and John has left the park with the umbrellas and raincoats.
Maggie and I run to meet John and we have a $28 dinner from Wetzel's Pretzels inside the Disney Store.
Our kids do not beg for (or even ask for) toys.
As we walk back to our car in the rain, Dalton asks for his "racing ticket". He's been carrying the Autopia driver's license around all day, and falls asleep in the car holding it in his hand.

[Comments] (4) Homeward Bound:
This is Halloween
Home for the Holidays
I'll Be Home For Christmas
Leavin' On a Jet Plane
So Long, Farewell
Ticket to Ride
To the New York Island
Gone to Look for America
The Land of the Free
Taking the Long Way Around
From Sea to Shining Sea
The Long and Winding Road
Take Me Home

[Comments] (2) Travelling Buddies: Our kids are great travelers. You may already know this. You may have assumed this. You may have assumed the opposite. But it's true. Whether we wake them up for a flight early in the morning, or just hours after they went to bed; whether Dalton misses a nap (or 5 in a row); whether we feed them Indian airplane food or granola bars; they are well-behaved, excited, cheerful and adorable. The last time I remember either of them being really obnoxious was on our way home from Hong Kong, when I made Dalton "cry it out" in the airport so we wouldn't have to do it on the plane. I don't think the kids have slept on an airplane since then, though.

The only trip for which we purchased a seat for Dalton was the one here - and that's because we thought we'd probably return after he turned 2. Did you notice we came home from Dubai the day before his birthday? He sits on one of our laps and plays with the TV remote, or colors. He can share a seat with Maggie to look out the window.

Both of the kids think airplanes are exciting. They never seem to get ear pain. We can only hope that they've gotten all their traveling out and they won't wonder why we're sitting around at home not going on fun trips.

Ruins, Monkeys, and Fireflies: Jodi and I returned this morning from a trip to the Hampi Ruins. We took the night train there (first class) and it was pretty nice. We headed straight out to the ruins and saw just about everything that first day. We ate twice at the Mango Tree, did some walking, and really enjoyed being girls on our own (with our English-speaking driver, of course).

Susie: I wonder if we'll get our picture taken as much without the kids.
Random person: One snap?
Susie: I guess that answers that question.

We had our picture taken a dozen or so times. Some people asked. Some didn't. I was also asked for my autograph, which is a first.

We stayed at the Royal Orchid hotel, which had a really nice shower and insanely comfortable beds. We watched Prince of Persia at night, then a horrible, hilarious, dubbed Chinese film in the morning. The second day, we visited the temple, where Jodi got to spend some quality time with Lakshmi (the elephant), feeding her bananas we'd bought.

Since we'd seen everything we were interested in, we ended up taking a boat across the river, and hiking 680 steps up Anjanadri hill to see a view of Hampi valley. The hike wasn't as hard as we'd anticipated, but we had to pass too many monkeys too close for comfort. We'd paid an auto driver to take us there, wait for us, and return us to the boat dock. We asked him to stop so we could walk the last km. He said, "Why?"

We had to wait over half an hour for the boat to come get us. (TII) By the time we made it across, the ruins were closed. We climbed up on top of riverside ruin that still had a roof and lay there for half an hour. Then we went to the Mango Tree for dinner, where we hung out for two hours. One of the waiters walked us back to the road, through the banana plantation with a flashlight. He showed us fireflies, which are apparently huge, fat beetles. At this point we realized our driver had been sitting outside the gate for 7 hours, since bringing us to the Mango Tree for lunch. We made it to the train station, and our train was only half an hour late.

We couldn't get first class on the way back, and unfortunately, it was a lot harder to sleep in second class. A few stops after us, a couple guys came and slept in the bunks above us, slinging their stuff on our beds and snoring, and there was a kid talking loudly for hours across the way. The train got in to Bangalore at 6:10 am. Bleh.

Mysore Again: As soon as Jodi arrived, we took off for Mysore. We stayed with Nagalakshmi (Leonard's mother-in-law) and saw all the sights in a couple days. Then we went to Wonder-La on the way home. The kids took turns throwing up, and Jodi and I both had colds. There was a bit of rain, but we slogged through and managed to see a lot.

We went straight to Mysore Palace. We walked hurriedly through the palace, then took Jodi on her long-awaited elephant ride. She rode with Maggie, then Maggie and I rode a camel, and Jodi and Dalton had a camel ride. Jodi also got a blessing from the elephant, which she says was the best elephant encounter ever (I'm hoping for two more during her visit). At this point they kicked us out, so we didn't get to have a look at the front of the palace, but we got what we came for.

We headed to Nagalakshmi's and had an Indian dinner she'd prepared. Yum! The next morning we went to Chamundi Hill. We walked around the temple, and did some souvenir shopping. Jodi's goal was to buy the weirdest thing possible for Franco, and I think we succeeded. We went straight to the Mysore Zoo. Maggie sat in the stroller the entire time. We especially enjoyed watching the giraffes.

After the zoo, we entrusted our lives to Sandeep (I guess we do that all the time) and let him take us to a hotel for lunch. In India, the word "hotel" is often used for "restaurant" but this was actually a hotel restaurant. We had a South Indian thali - a meal with rice, Indian bread, and little dishes with all kinds of gravies. It was really good, and only one or two things were too spicy for us.

After lunch we went to Devaraja Market and did some more souvenir shopping, as well as sight-seeing. We bought a couple more things. Maggie screamed for apple juice. We went to a grocery store and finally found some. Since it was still early and the kids had already missed a nap, we went to the Rail Museum on Sumana's recommendation. The kids loved it! There is a train ride, and lots of train cars and engines that the kids can climb in, pretend to drive, lean out the windows etc. They had a really good time.

We had Pizza Hut for dinner, and an Indian breakfast the next morning. Then we headed out, and stopped at Wonder La on our way home. We forced Dalton onto a couple kiddie rides, went on the Sky Wheel, and then to the water park. We got to go in the Ladies & Kids only pools, which was fun. Dalton went down a water slide by himself, but Maggie was too busy whining. This time they let us take Dalton on the lazy river, so we went twice (dragging Maggie on the first time, and off the second). Then it was time for the wave pool, so we did that until we were too cold and tired. It was a long drive home, but John heated dinner up for us, and had bought flowers and an adorable Kyli-sized dress.

Maggie threw up all night, so we stayed home this morning and John took Jodi and Dalton to church. I'm very happy that Jodi took Dalton (who is also still sick) to Relief Society and that he snuggled her. I don't have to worry about him warming back up to his aunties and uncles!

[Comments] (3) Back from Bangkok: John has written an in-depth travelogue (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, return trip), if you're interested. Here are just a few of my thoughts on our awesome trip to Thailand, as well as a few cute things from the kids. You can see pictures here.

Maggie learning Indian English: I want to look out the window only! and I want to eat pizza only.
Maggie: That pool shape like a chrysalis.
Maggie: Look! The carpet goes all the way to the edge!
Maggie: A cloud! I'm not going!

Dalton, constantly: Bearbay! (Airplane)

Thai food in Thailand is better than Indian food in India. But still wasn't great.

John picks great hotels. The location was awesome - right next to all the malls, including the Siam Paragon which had a food court with 100 restaurants (seriously). We also took turns going out after the kids went to bed and checking out the night market and other shops.

The first day we went to an aquarium. It was really expensive - $100 for the three of us. But it included popcorn, a drink, a souvenir each, and the fish spa! They had a play place right next to the fish spa which was brilliant. We also go to feed sharks, but the sharks were not interested in the shrimp we were handing out. Instead the fish fought like crazy over them. They had penguins, giant spider crabs, sea otters, baby hammerhead sharks and more.

On the day of our tour to Ayutthaya, we went on a river cruise, saw huge turtles, and water monitors, animal-shaped topiaries, and rode on an elephant (because we can't do that in India). They also had an elephant show that was outstanding. The elephants hula-hooped, danced and more.

The next day we went to a safari park and marine park. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be, but was even better. You drive your car through the safari park to look at animals. You know, like a safari. We had booked a tour, but were the only people on it. So we had a driver, and an English-speaking guide to ourselves. The park had so many animals. There were dozens of zebras and giraffes, lions, tigers, bears, some rhinos, camels and more. After the safari we went into the marine park and saw some shows. Sea lions, dolphins, elephants painting and tight-rope walking, and orangutans. The orangutans do a "boxing" show, and I thought it was going to be like a cock fight. Luckily it was more for fun, but I wouldn't have called it fun. The trainers hit the orangutans and there were a lot of potty jokes. I did feel better when the orangutans hit (or kicked) the trainers back. We also saw walruses, polar bears, really a lot of crocodiles, huge fish, lots of birds, including a forest of free-range macaws, and smaller birds that you can feed from your hand. They also had tiger cubs that you could feed a bottle of milk to for $12.50. We went to look at them later, unattended and unlocked in their little zoo train cages. Best of all, we got to feed the giraffes! For $1.50 you can buy a bucket of sweet potatoes and bananas and feed them. That was my favorite thing in Bangkok - an unforgettable experience.

You just can't do things like leave tiger cages unlocked or let people feed giraffes with pointy sticks in the States.

We weren't even inside the Kolkatta airport when I heard Maggie scream. An Indian woman tried to pinch her. I sure didn't miss that in Bangkok. The kids (especially Dalton) got just as much or more attention, but Thais have a little more respect for space.

PS: You might notice in the pictures that we are still using our baby sling. Dalton can walk just as far or farther than Maggie, and he is getting heavy, but I like to carry him to keep him from getting too crazy, or if it's dirty or crowded. He even fell asleep in it a couple times on this trip. Seriously, I love my pouch sling. It folds up so tiny, I can wear it without him in it, or shove it in a backpack. It makes airport security easier. Actually, it makes just about everything about airports easier. I can handle more luggage when I've got him hands-free on my hip, rather than chasing him around. If you have a baby, you need one of these.

[Comments] (2) :

[Comments] (1) The Goan Way: Back from the beach! We had a great trip in Goa. I've never stayed at a resort before. It was awesome! Like a cruise ship without the seasickness. Here are some thoughts from our trip.

The food was really expensive. We prepaid $60/day for lunch and dinner (breakfast was included) and we had to be really frugal to stay within budget. We got ice cream cones one day and they charged Rs. 660 for two cones - $15! We had a huge sunken tub in our room, one of the highlights of the trip. The resort does daily mosquito fogging. No mosquito bites at all - yay!

It was nice not to be the only people wearing swimming suits. In fact, I only once saw people swimming in their clothes, and it was at the beach. I don't think clothes are allowed in the pool.

The lounge chairs were the best part. The pool boys set them up for you, with a nice cushion and a towel to lay on and another towel to dry off with, and an umbrella overhead. They were soooo comfortable.

They did a good job of making the kids comfortable. When they made up a crib for Dalton, the folded a comforter under the sheet, and folded another sheet for a blanket for him, and brought a little pillow. They also brought us baby toiletries and a squeaky toy for the bathroom. And - yay - they had highchairs at the restaurants.

Maggie and I had a great time hunting for shells. We found lots of "pokey shells" but they were hard to wash out and really stank so we only kept a few. She also found a couple 2 Rupee coins and a piece of foreign currency (we can't tell what it is). And she likes to tell the story of the ocean bringing her a coconut. There were small, clear-ish crabs scuttling everywhere, and when the waves receded, we could watch dozens of tiny clams digging their way back under the sand. Also, we found a small, dead fish and later watched as a bird came and carried it away. They also had jetskiing and para-sailing at the beach. The water was warm, the sand was smooth. The shoreline varied so much that it was hard with Dalton - the waves came in and out in a span of 10 meters or more, so sometimes you'd be dry and sometimes you'd be up to your waist in water.

I liked the resort employees uniforms. The front desk staff wore white - the waiters and housekeeping staff wore white shirts with pyjamas (or wrap skirts for the women) in plaid. The grounds staff wore capri overalls, and saris for the women (the only women wearing saris). And the pool boys wore blue shirts and white capris and crocs. Everyone but the pool boys had matching leather roman sandals.

Here's our typical day:
bath
breakfast
beach
pool
lunch
nap/gym/kid's club
swim
bath
dinner
bed

Our first day there, while lying around at the beach, Maggie ran up to John and gave him a big hug and said, "Thanks for Hong Kong Disneyland!" John said, "Where are we?" and she paused a minute and said"just kidding! I was just kidding." So sweet.

Goodbye, Cruel World: Hellooooo vacation! Inclusive resort, warm weather, short flight, not-Bangalore, bathtub, fancy hotel, kid's club, pool, private beach, ocean, shell-gathering, sand castles, Arabian Sea, immigration-free, off season, delicious vacation.

We are bringing capris, skirts, harem pants, shorts, swimming suits, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, beach toys, [malaria pills], Sudoku, the Kindle, passports, and that's about it!

Shopping: I am not a jewelery girl and I am not a purse girl, but somehow I'm coming "home" from Hong Kong with more of those things. I checked the price on a tiny, plastic purse at Burberry yesterday and it was nearly $400 (US) so I decided to go with the little $2 purses at Stanley Market. I got two tiny purses that'll hold a phone and credit cards and some cash and that's about it.

I also got a jade bracelet. Jade! The lady also looking at them asked the salesgirl if they were high grade jade and the girl laughed at her. So, we spent $13 on a bracelet instead of $2,000. I'm ok with that, and I love it.

We also got Chinese clothes, t-shirts, postcards, a fan, a parasol, chopsticks, and regular clothes for me and Maggie. Lots of silk brocade coming back with us.

I am not looking forward to going back to India. Hopefully the reality is better.

If you've missed any of John's detailed accounts of our Hong Kong trip, check them out.
Kuala Lumpur
Ocean Park
The Peak
Lantau Tour
Hong Kong Disneyland
Temple and Sha Tin
Stanley Market

Alternate Universe Disneyland: Yesterday we finally went to Hong Kong Disneyland. Between Ocean Park, and seeing Pixar characters at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, and Peanuts characters at Snoopy's World, it's no wonder our kids think Hong Kong is Hong Kong Disneyland.

We were at the park when they opened at 10:30 and left when they closed at 8. It's like an Alternate Universe Disneyland. I was actually a little freaked out walking down Main Street USA, which is pretty much the same, but different enough to feel a little Twilight Zone-y. The street is brick instead of pavement, and the signs are different. That's about it. Once you split into the lands the differences become great enough that you don't keep thinking you're in Southern California, but before that it's a little disorienting.

The kids had a great time. We rode most of the rides and they were happy campers. The Winnie-The-Pooh ride had a lot of changes. There were new scenes added, which was fun and different, since I've been on it so many times. it's a small world was different, too. Again, it's nice to see something different on such a familiar ride. Dalton was enthralled with it. I really loved the Hong Kong scene at the end. Very cool!

We also saw two really great shows, Mickey's PhilharMagic Orchestra and The Festival of the Lion King. The first was a 3D show where Donald steals Mickey's magic hat and is taken through different musical scenes of movies looking for it. The second is an amazing live, musical performance, a quick reenactment of The Lion King. There's dancing, great singing, men twirling fire batons, girls swinging from the ceiling, and, of course, monkeys translating the key points into Chinese.

Hong Kong is awesome. I don't know how much of that is compared to India. Perhaps I would feel inconvenience coming here from the US. As it is, the biggest inconvenience is that I had to do laundry by hand for several days.

The Hong Kong subway system is awesome. All the trains and stations are clean and shiny. The maps light up, letting you know which stop is approaching, which lines you can transfer to, and which side of the door to get out of. Transferring trains is often as simple as walking across the platform - trains running in the same direction share platforms, rather than trains from the same line running in different directions. It is so efficient. The stations have multiple entrances, which means a lot of walking to get to the train, but that the station can easily serve a large area. And there are escalators everywhere. You also buy a ticket based on which stop you are getting off at. And the trains are filled with nice people who give their seats to ladies holding crazy babies.

I tried to go to the temple today, but apparently it was closed for the Public Holiday and is closed tomorrow, too! Sad. There goes my one chance to go to the temple this year. We did have a fun time at a nearby park, at Snoopy's World, and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. We took it easy today because yesterday was such a long day.

Some more great things about Hong Kong:
A different selection of imported food (we bought sour gummy worms, wild rice, dried mangoes, two kids of goldfish crackers, and different granola bars to take back with us)
A different selection of imported restaurants (I'm trying to convince John to go to CPK again)
Did I mention the beef hamburgers at McDonald's?
Lots of people-watching
People are very friendly
There is a LOT to see and do
Carbs
Lots of walking and exercise

Not Disneyland: Today we went to Ocean Park, a theme park here in Hong Kong. Themed around the ocean, surprisingly enough. Halfway through Maggie complained that we hadn't found the Winnie-the-Pooh ride yet. Lucky her! If that was Disneyland, she gets to go twice.

Dalton loved the carousel. I guess he's over his temporary fear of rides, or maybe that was India-specific. He wasn't afraid of the characters (mascots) either, nor the Chinese women who wanted to hold him and comfort him when he cried because we had to get off the carousel. Maggie seems less afraid of people here, and even waved to the doorman. Maybe she's realized that her cheeks haven't been pinched in two days.

Ocean Park is in two sections, a lower one, then you take a gondola up over the mountain, or a sub-themed train through the mountain to the other side. One of my favorite rides was a rotating view tower. You sit on a bench looking out and it rotates and slowly rises up, then goes down. We had great views of Hong Kong and the ocean.

My other favorite part was the animals. There are several aquariums with fish, sharks, jellies, goldfish etc, but they also have exhibits of Asian animals. For example, Giant Pandas! yay! Maggie wasn't very interested (she didn't want to give up her stroller spot) and I told her, "you might never get to see a panda again, get up and look." I was wrong though; there was another one in a different exhibit just across the way.

John didn't believe me, but I remember seeing Giant Pandas at the LA Zoo growing up. Perhaps a postcard will soon come up, validating that. I was recently validated about my childhood elephant rides, so it's possible. Also, it looks like the San Diego Zoo has pandas right now. You can even watch them on Panda cam. He's walking around right now!

Anyway, I also loved seeing the red pandas. They were so soft and cuddly looking. They were more active and seemed larger than the one at the Hogle Zoo.

They also had a sea lion and seal exhibit, and Maggie got to feed the seals. She dove right in (figuratively) and did it. It's $45 to feed the penguins at the aquarium in Utah, but we only paid $3.50 for three frozen fish for the seals! Maggie kept calling them otters, then she'd correct herself and say "animals" because she couldn't remember the name. They had otters also.

[Comments] (1) Bangalore-Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong: John blogged extensively about our trip through Kuala Lumpur and our first day in Hong Kong so I will just add a few things that I thought were interesting.

I saw more pregnant people in 5 hours at the Kuala Lumpur mall than I have in 5 months in India.
I am apparently used to not wearing seat belts and drivers opening the car door for me.
I love people who actually queue.
We were served dinner on Malaysia Air at 3 am. Seriously. I don't know what's weirder, curry at 3 am, or the fact that I ate it.
You can get away with wearing anything in Hong Kong. Between very short skirts and Muslim women covered head to toe, we saw a lot of different styles. You can dress however and call it fashion and get away with it, I think.
We have four kinds of currency with us.
Malaysia was so much more green than India. It was more lush and jungle, really like we expected India to be. They had something growing everywhere India has dirt. In the sidewalk cracks, up the tree trunks. Red soil is to India as greenery is to Malaysia.
McDonald's BEEF hamburger - so good.
The Malaysia Air flight attendants gave me dinner first (the second time, not the 3 am time) so I could eat while John held Dalton, then vice versa when they got to our row. Very thoughtful. Baby boy also got us cuts in two immigration lines, and a seat offer on a crowded MTR, though I didn't take it.
Maggie slept 18 hours in a row yesterday.
Having church in a chapel with carpet and pews (and stained glass windows and paintings of Christ, and elevators, and toilet paper, and an organ) agreed with Dalton. That boy needs more carpet in his life.
I have some little world travelers with full pages in their passports. Sometimes I am amazed at myself for dragging the kids all over the world. But they don't seem any the worse for wear, so onward we go.

Auto-nomics: We took an auto home from church on Sunday. We live near a very well-known store, so our apartment isn't hard to find. Yet we had trouble finding an auto driver at the auto stand willing to take us. Even the drivers that approached us said no.

Finally one pulled over and said he'd take us for 100, which is what we usually pay to get to church, though the fact that he offered at 100 means we could have paid less. On the way home, I recounted Rachel's version of Newton's First Law of Motion.

An auto at rest will stay at rest unless a large force acts against it.

It's much easier to flag down an auto than convince one to move from a tea break.

Surreal: While eating lunch at a cheap French cafe at a fancy mall on Saturday, we saw a family with two teenage daughters, presumably on vacation. I was thinking of that feeling when you're on a really cool vacation. Is this really happening? How cool is this! How cool am I! Unless your vacation is longer than a couple weeks, that feeling stays the entire time. And even then, sometimes it floats over you again.

That surreal feeling has come and gone several times for us during our time in India. We've been here four months, which is as long as I lived in Romania. Once when John and I were talking about it, I wondered about the actual definition of the word "surreal." "Sur" in French means "upon", so my definition of a surreal feeling is as if there were another layer on top of reality.

Underlying our regular life is the fact that we live in India. We're so adjusted that sometimes we forget. Then when I remember, that surrealism settles down over me.

Transcontinental and Timbukto: I have lived in more countries than states. (Dalton and John also, but Maggie is tied). I have actually lived on more continents than states.

Not only that, born and raised in Southern California, my two siblings and I now live 3,000 to 10,000 miles away from our birthplace, and each on a different continent. Thank goodness for video chat!

Pondy Top 10: Just a few notes from our trip to Pondicherry.

1. Dalton was afraid of the temple elephant. He hid his face and whimpered like a poor thing. No more elephant blessings for him.
2. Some of the complaints we read about the hotel we stayed in were that it wasn't very Indian. John said about that, "India's right there. I don't need to stay in India."
3. Silly road signs we didn't get pictures of included "Don't Encourage Children for Driving" and "Don't Over Speed". We also saw many trucks that said "We Two Ours One" on the back. One even said "We Two! Our's One!" with a close quotation mark at the end.
4. Rooftop pool = awesome. The view, the warm water, Maggie being willing to swim and play, and able to stand on her own.
5. The food was surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much after the hotel in Hampi, but the lunch and dinner buffets were definitely edible.
6. Everyone thinks Dalton's name is Dawsom. I am getting better and pronouncing it with an Indian accent so people can understand it. There is a brand of noodles (like Top Ramen) called Maggi here, so no one has trouble with that.
7. I must be very desperate for craft supplies. Maggie and I gathered a cup of seashells to bring back. It's already paid off: she spent half an hour playing with them while I made dinner.
8. Speaking of craft supplies, the Hand Made Paper Factory was delicious! Everything was amazing and so cheap. We bought some of everything and I can't wait to play with it.
9. Dalton signed Thank You twice, even though I haven't shown him that sign in weeks.
10. If the Bay of Bengal didn't have such a fierce undertow, I'd have gladly swam in it. The water was warm and the sand was perfect and the kids were having a great time. This trip was what a beach resort town vacation should be.

Thanks, John, for a great Valentine's Weekend! Pictures of Pondicherry are up. Pictures of the drive and our paper factory haul coming soon.

[Comments] (3) Mysore: We are back from our New Year's road trip to Mysore. (Pictures here, here and here.) We had a great visit. The city is not very far away, but we live on the wrong side of Bangalore and the traffic (in the city) and the roads (everywhere) are terrible, so it's about a 4 hour trip.

We left Saturday morning, later than planned because this is India after all. Maggie threw up three times in the car on the way there. We went straight to the Mysore zoo where we saw elephants playing in the water, an otter rolling in the dirt, giraffes, dozens of crocodiles, and some tigers. I wished I'd taken more pictures of the hilarious signs. "Don't climb in the cage. The zebra will attack you [diagram of man being gored by zebra] and you will be punished [man being dragged away, bleeding, by security]."

After the zoo we drove out to Brindavan Gardens, stopping to see a waterfall on the way. It was nearly dark by the time we got to the gardens. We bought some scalped tickets, and hopped on a boat across the lake. Dalton got to drive. The gardens are at the foot of a dam, which provides power to Mysore and water supply to most of Karnataka. We watched a fountain/music/lights show. Not very impressive, but we had fun. By then it was completely dark, so we walked around and looked at the other fountains, before heading back into the city to stay with Sumana's mother, Nagalakshmi.

We had a very nice stay at Nagalakshmi's house. She had plenty of space for us, and plenty of food (though we sadly couldn't enjoy it as much as we wished). She was a very gracious and hospitable host. She also gave me a beautiful silk sari, and bought the kids some adorable Indian outfits, and gave John a comfy shawl.

On Sunday we went to Chamundi Hill. We saw some monkeys, climbed the last set of stairs up to the temple, and enjoyed the view. We did not pay to enter the temple, or wait in the line. At this point, we taught Maggie (and John) to not let anyone hand you anything. Dalton didn't learn this lesson and ended up with a temple offering when we visited the Bull Temple next. I insisted we didn't want it and put it back in the guy's basket. I'm all about supporting the local economy, but it's not my fault if he gives me 1 year old a carnation and he throws it on the ground.

After the temple, we took a rest, then went to Mysore Palace. Here's the rub: The entrance fee is Rs20 for Indian nationals, and Rs200 for Foreigners. Of course, $4 is cheaper than any museum in the US, so whatever. The palace was amazing. No photos (or shoes...) allowed inside, but I will tell you it is richly decorated, huge, and has beautiful etched glass and stained glass windows. The tour hardly covers any of it.

After the tour, we went on camel rides and another elephant ride, because we are nice parents. The elephant ride was quite a bit more than at the zoo last week, but I always say, "it cost us thousands of dollars to get here, $2 really isn't that much." John went and picked up our shoes while we waited for the rides, so you will see that everyone else is still barefoot. The camel ride was fun (and only 40 cents each), though John was worried Maggie would fall off and I was worried Dalton would fall off. The elephant ride was very wobbly and uncomfortable.

We hung out at the palace until dark to see it lit up. While waiting, we got toy autorickshaws for the kids. When I first asked how much, the seller said, Rs200. We ended up paying 80. Then, when the kids fought over it, we sent our driver back to the market with Rs40 and he got another for Rs35. The kids love their new little toys and it is quintessential India.

The lights on the Palace were pretty cool. No fireworks or anything, just lights. Dalton just about went crazy while we waited. We had more pictures taken of us on Sunday than we took of anything else. Poor Maggie has learned to say "No!"

On Monday, I went with Nagalakshmi to her tailor. The sari fabric is woven in one long yardage (meterage?), with the fabric for the blouse on the end. So the tailor cuts that off, makes a blouse out of it, and hems the end of the sari. Pretty neat! After being measured, we bought clothes for the kids. Then Sandeep (our driver) took us to the Deveraja Market. This market sells fruits, vegetables, bangles, flowers, and kumkum powder... that's about it. I went back in and bought some of the powder to use in painting with Maggie. Then we went on a pony cart ride around the Palace.

The drive back was a little better because Maggie fell asleep and didn't throw up. We're glad to be home and ready to start the new year.

Welcome to Bangalore.: I've posted some pictures of the serviced apartment we're staying at this week, and of our stop in New York on the way. Sadly, we only saw Leonard for less than an hour (not counting our nap) and I didn't get any pictures. But we'll see him next week at Nandini's wedding.

It was a looong trip over here. Besides our three flights and long layovers, it's also an hour car ride from the airport. We are all still feeling exhausted, except maybe Maggie. She's been sleeping regular hours. Dalton woke up at 4ish and we couldn't get him to go back to sleep.

The hotel is really fancy. They just delivered our laundry, wrapped in tissue paper. The pool has white stones around it, and a waterfall. Rachel is visiting, having planned her trip based on our original travel dates. Today we went swimming (the pool was cold) and shopping for gifts for Rachel to take home. Maggie whined and wanted to be carried the whole way. Dalton attracted the attention of everyone.

New York, New York: My life has become a whirlwind, but I feel I should do a quick post about my trip to New York City to visit Leonard over Thanksgiving. I've put up some pictures on my picture blog to show Maggie while I was gone, but there are more. It was just Leonard and I and we had a great time. We went to the MoMa, the American Museum of Natural History (Dinosaurs!), Central Park, and lots of fabulous restaurants. I will also do a photo post of food we ate. We made Thanksgiving dinner with exactly what we wanted, including the most delicious dry-brined chicken and Leonard's famous tarts. We also visited the Socrates Sculpture Park near his house.

Leonard says I must have a touristy vibe about me because he gets treated like a tourist when he's with me. I think I figured out what it is: I'm nice. I got lost in Queens on the way to the airport. On the bus I helped a man zip up his bag that was coming unzipped and a girl said to him, "where do you think she's from? She is so nice!" I'm ok with that.

Everything is crazy here at home. We did lots of packing so I can take stuff to store at "ours other house" (as Maggie calls it). How did we get so much stuff? Since we bought Dalton a ticket, we will have plenty of room for stuff like diapers in our bags. We're really not taking much. I have lots of other errands to run. Hope the weather clears up, or at least the streets get plowed.

[Comments] (2) On Our Way Soon: It's true. We are finally on our way to India. I can hardly believe it, but now that the flights are booked, I have to. I even started packing up today. I packed a box of newly-acquired Halloween items and was pleased to realize that I had made all but one of them! 5 Halloween costumes, a bat pillow, two witch hats, and a light-up ghost I bought for $1.50 on clearance on November 1st.

We are definitely ready to move on with our life. It has been 16 months since we first applied for this opportunity. We're tired of waiting! During the waiting, we just discovered, Dalton outgrew the height requirement for the airline bassinets. Luckily, we were able to buy him a seat with our flight allowance.

Speaking of Dalton, he elicited a phone call to Poison Control the other day. Somehow the kids got a hold of and opened a bottle of Excedrin. Maggie played "snow" with it, then brought it to me in Mr. Potato Head's hat and asked, "Mom, what are these green things?" Pretty sure Dalton didn't eat any. I found another one on the floor today, and I know we'd used some, so he can't have had more than one.

Anyway, back to India. We leave December 2nd. There are no good flight options for taking two kids overseas. We'll be flying over two nights with a 10 hour layover in NYC. And drugging our kids with Benadryl if necessary (I already cleared this with the pediatrician).

[Comments] (1) Not Zion: Our trip south is well underway. We drove to Southern Utah on Friday and stopped at Kolob Canyon (part of Zion National Park) on the way. It is a short scenic drive, with a short scenic hike at the end.

Saturday morning we were up early to beat the crowds and the heat. We took the shuttle bus (required but awesome) to the end of the canyon where we did the 2 mile Riverwalk hike along the Virgin River until the canyon narrows so much the river fills it. John and Maggie continued barefoot into the river a ways, their favorite part of the day. Dalton’s favorite part of the day was also on this hike – rock squirrels. He loves animals and squealed with delight – and lunged – every time saw one, which was quite often. We also saw four deer and some tiny Zion snails on the damp cliff walls.

Our next hike was short and steep to Weeping Rock. To shelter under the rock overhang we had to sneak under fat drops of water falling from above. Water seeping through the sandstone has been found as old as 4,000 years. That’s how long it took it to seep through. How do they know how old water is?

The last hike we did in Zion was to Lower Emerald Pool. The pool was somewhat disappointing, but this 1 mile trail was my favorite and Dalton took a nap in his sling.

Our next stop was the Human History Museum. Dalton got to crawl around finally, and Maggie was made a Little Junior Ranger. I was very pleased watching her interact with a non-family member adult. She really knew her stuff about the plants and animals we’d seen and the rules about what not to do in the park. She did get one question wrong (depending on your point of view): When the Ranger asked where she was from, Maggie looked at her for a moment then said, “Gramma Papa’s house.”

We made it back to the Visitor’s Center where we bought Dalton a Junior Ranger hat. I lost his hat on one of our hikes, but the fact is, he wouldn’t wear it anyway. The Jr. Ranger hat is much more difficult to remove.

We drove the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway, including the Pine Creek Bridge built by my great-grandfather Lewis Jotham Whitney, and the famous Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. There was construction so the tunnel wasn’t the only 1-way road we had to wait at, but it was a beautiful drive. We even came across a herd of bighorn sheep climbing the rocks at one of our waits. The red and white marbled scenery dotted with blue-green shrubs made me think of Mars.

We drove back to our hotel through LaVerkin, which boasts the best tasting water. Picky-water Me was surprised to discover that the water out of the hotel sink was actually really good!

We went swimming both nights. Dalton loves the water as always, and Maggie surprised us by jumping right in, splashing, kicking and blowing bubbles with her face in the water.

On Sunday, we left the hotel at 8:30 am – 7:30 am in NV and CA. So we decided to stop at Snow Canyon State Park northwest of St. George. We did 2 short, rock scrambly hikes on the East (shady) side of the canyon, Jenny’s Canyon and Pioneer Names. We also stopped at the outlets in Primm, but all we bought was a smoothie.

We made it to California safe. We’re staying at a fancy hotel. Disneyland tomorrow. I how many compliments our kids get on vacation. Dalton made friends with busloads of people at a time with his friendly smile and wave. He is a real charmer.

Title refers to Brigham Young's opinion of Zion Canyon.

[Comments] (1) Downtown SLC: Today we had a fun (and free!) day in downtown Salt Lake City. First we went to the Salt Lake Art Center to see Contemporary Masters. Yes, we played mini golf on art. For free. Some the holes were really interesting, and some were downright impossible.

Next, we walked to the Gallivan Center, which wasn't really interesting to see. Dalton fell asleep in the stroller, a sheer miracle. We walked down to Temple Square and ate lunch at the Nauvoo Cafe. We peeked in the South Visitor's Center, then hopped back on TRAX. We went to the Gateway and visited the Planetarium. The kids walked on the moon and Mars! Well, Dalton crawled and rock-climbed. Then we put on Maggie's swimming suit and let her play in the fountain.

We got Orange Julius and walked back to our car. Then we drove around Federal Heights trying to find the U. Apparently you can drive right up to it. They don't make you work for it like the Y does. Still, Maggie enjoyed seeing it.

We had a great time, got some exercise and fresh air (luckily, it wasn't too hot today) and saw lots of sights. And everything was free, except for the food!

Park City Fun: This weekend we went for a quick getaway to Park City. We stayed at Uncle Justin's condo. We spent $16 swimming at the Racquet Club pool. We had to drag Maggie into the pool... and out again when we left. I took Dalton on the water slide first so she would see it wasn't scary. Dalton isn't afraid of water, or getting his face wet or anything. But I forgot until we got up there that he doesn't like slides! He was fine though, and the kids had a good time.

On Saturday we bought lift tickets at The Canyons. We took the gondola up, then the ski lift. The Canyons doesn't have the same qualms as the Park City resort about kids under 2 on the lift. We ate bread, cheese and fruit for lunch and did some hiking. We did more hiking than we intended, because apparently you can't take the lift back down.

[Comments] (1) Temple Square: The kids and I met Jill at Temple Square today. Even though we've been there many times, today we did stuff we'd never done before. We went on a tour of the gardens, ate at the Lion House Pantry, and went up to the 26th floor observation deck in the Church office building. Then we peeked into the Tabernacle, saw the Christus, and went on a tour of the Conference Center. We didn't quite do everything we wanted to, but Jill offered to take the kids to the Church History/Art Museum during Brynn's sealing next week.

We had 2 inches of snow on the ground yesterday morning, but today was 70 and my arms got sunburned.

Utah Museum of Natural History: The first Monday of the month is a free day at the Utah Museum of Natural History, so I took the kids today. When we got there, Maggie insisted on seeing "ladybugs and bees". Lucky for me, they had a live insect exhibit. After that, she warmed up to the idea of digging for dinosaur bones, and we spent an hour in the hands-on dinosaur exhibit. She enjoyed digging, doing puzzles and climbing on a faux femur, which she insisted was a slide, but the horizontal position led me to believe was a bench.

By the way, you can park at any metered parking in the President's Circle, and get a pass from the museum.

After a snack-picnic on the grass, we picked John up at work (we sold his car to Jamie and now we are sharing!) and took him to the airport. A sad, but busy, 3 days till we see him again.

HVRX and Maggieisms: Last night my aunt Sharon called and invited us to go on a homeschool field trip to the Heber Valley Railroad. We had to drive up there in a snowstorm, the railroad car wasn't heated, and we had to drag a crying Maggie onto the train, but other than that it was great! Maggie loved it, and got to meet the conductor. Also, since we were in the last car, we got to watch the engine back up and hook on when we turned around. Have I mentioned lately that Maggie thinks my cousin Sarah is awesome? Also, they have puppies at their house.

Maggie mixes up her prepositions. I made her some chocolate milk the other day.
Maggie: I need a new straw for Aunt Rachel. ... Mommy, I spilled! I hold it to two hands.

When playing with her cousins, she tends to call her daddy "Uncle John."

Pretend = "for a tend" as in "Just eat it for a tend."

Impossible = "a pasta bowl", and she uses it whenever she doesn't want to do something.

Mommy: Why is there toilet paper all over the floor?
Maggie: It's Easter eggs.
Mommy: Oh, well let's go find them.
Maggie: *Pretends to look* There's one! Here's one!
Mommy: Hey, I found too little ones! Let's go put them in our basket (ie. the trash can).

[Comments] (1) Bryce Canyon: We made it home last night from an awesome 4-day trip to Southern Utah. See John's rundown here.

On Wednesday we drove down in the rain/wind/hail/snow. The kids were great in the car, and Maggie was thrilled to see the red rock tunnels. A good sign. We stayed at Ruby's Inn, in the Lakeview lodge. The lake view was very nice, but considering the weather, we wish we'd stayed at the main lodge so we didn't have to brave the elements to go swimming.

After getting settled, we decided to continue as planned and hike to Mossy Cave. It is about 1 mile round trip to see the cave and the waterfall. We had all sorts of weather on the drive there, but luckily just a light snow during the actual hike. The hike was short with a few steep parts. The cave was really neat - water drips through cracks in the rock and forms ice stalactites 9 months of the year. You also cross a few bridges, which Maggie loved.

On the second day (Thursday), the weather wasn't supposed to be very good, but we learned in Yellowstone that it might not get any better, so go for it. We went into Bryce Canyon and hiked down into the amphitheater. We took the Queen's Garden trail down from Sunrise Point and the Navajo Loop trail back up to Sunset Point. We wanted to do the Wall Street, but it was closed due to rock slide. Maggie got really grumpy about halfway through the hike. We had to ascend steep switchbacks covered in several inches of clay-like mud, Maggie crying the whole way. You haven't heard crying until you've heard it amplified in a slot canyon. Dalton was a good sport and took a nap the first half, nursed for a bit (is nursing while hiking through mud in the snow weirder than the 405 incident?), and made it to the top before having his meltdown. He cried the last 1/2 mile along the rim back to the car. This was the longest hike we ended up doing, about 3 miles.

We went home for lunch and to rest, then drove back into the park to check out the visitor's center (we bought a postcard for Maggie's collection, and a Bryce Canyon puzzle that she latched onto as soon as we walked in) and see the other Bryce Amphitheater viewpoints, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. Bryce Point was one of my favorite stops. Looking at the pictures of it, I am a little scared by how close Maggie is to the edge, but it seemed safe at the time.

The weather was supposed to be better on Friday, but it wasn't. Good thing we did our big hike on Thursday! It snowed and was cold, but worse, it was windy. We drove to the end of the park to do the 1 mile Bristlecone Loop. We bundled up and got out of the car and finally found the trail, buried under the snow. We weren't about to trudge through the snow at the canyon edge in our sneakers, so we just checked out the Rainbow viewpoints and got back in the car. We did the rest of the viewpoints on the way back by taking turns, and getting Maggie out about every other one. Dalton only got out once, when he was already out of his seat to eat. That was at the Natural Bridge, which was my favorite one. By the time we got home, the weather had us down. We went swimming with Maggie while Dalton had a nap. We were at the pool over an hour, and Dalton eventually woke up and got to swim for the first time.

After swimming, we decided to go for a drive. We checked out Bryce Lodge (not much to see, though Maggie enjoyed playing the drums in the gift shop), then drove East on Highway 12. We ended up in the Middle of Nowhere, aka Kodachrome Basin State Park (yes, named after Kodak, if you're wondering). The Lonely Planet guidebook we were using (thanks, Rach) made it sound like there wasn't much to see unless you did long hikes, but luckily it was wrong. We took a drive on a dirt road to see Chimney Rock (not worth it, there's one almost the same on the Nature Trail) and the Shakespeare Arch. The hike to Shakespeare Arch is short - about 10 minutes. It's a lot of up and down over little gullies and hills. The arch was pretty cool, but the view from the top of the plateau was the best.

The other trail we did in Kodachrome was the 1/2 mile Nature Trail. You can see lots of different rock formations on this trail - the tall sentinels, hoodoos, holes in the rock, you pass over a little stream. There are also informative signs about plants and animals that are nearby. John took Maggie around the trail, which is paved and wheelchair accessible, while I fed Dalton, then we went again. Maggie walked the whole way both times.

Since we arrived at the park around 5:30, we didn't have much time, but I wanted to do the Angel's Landing hike. It looks like it's about a mile, and climbs up to a plateau/sand fin with a great view.

Saturday, we checked out and headed to Red Canyon. Bryce had disappointed us (we'd also planned on doing a hike in Fairyland, which was closed due to snow). Red Canyon is part of Dixie National Forest, and it was on Highway 12 right on our way home. We did two of the hikes suggested in our guidebook - the Pink Ledges trail and the Arches trail. Maggie did most of the 1 mile Pink Ledges trail on her own. It winds around the canyon behind the Visitor's Center, with views of the valley, pink ledges, totems, hoodoos, etc. We also had an interpretive pamphlet that went along with the numbers on the trail. The Visitor's Center had some fun exhibits, including a table full of rocks for Maggie to play with.

The Arches trail is a few miles from the Visitor's Center, off a gravel road and is about 3/4 mile. It is pretty steep in parts. You see 15 small arches along the way. Saturday was such a nice day, we were finally able to have our picnic lunch as planned.

After we left Red Canyon Dalton cried himself to sleep and slept almost the entire way home. We decided to cruise on Highway 89 for a while instead of heading back to the Interstate. We stopped at Big Rock Candy Mountain (much more lame than I remember) and Cove Fort along the way. Maggie enjoyed climbing up the stairs at the fort.

Some of my favorite moments of the trip were listening to Maggie talking to herself in the backseat. She played with two of her My Little Ponies, telling them about Bryce Canyon and hiking etc. John and I would share a smile every time we heard her. Maggie girl loves hiking and had a great trip overall. She called our hotel room a cabin, and started saying, "I could not, would not" instead of "Never!"

[Comments] (2) Rainy Day Fun: Since it was pouring rain on Tuesday, Pat and I took Maggie (and Dalton, who slept the whole time) to the San Luis Obispo Children's Musuem. We got drenched walking to the museum, but the sun came out while we were there, and we were able to walk a couple blocks to a yummy, fresh restaurant after. Maggie loved the museum. It was very hands-on and she had a lot of fun trying on firemen uniforms, serving up food in the diner, and mostly, digging for sabertooth bones. They also had a life-sized train and a real police motorcycle.

In the evening, we took advantage of another break in the rain and Shannon and I took Maggie, Joel and Leah to a beach in Morro Bay. As soon as we got there, Maggie took off running toward the ocean. I'm not sure what she would have done if she'd hit the water before I stopped her. It was windy and a little chilly so we didn't stay long, but the kids had fun climbing the dunes and scavenging rocks and shells.

Wednesday was my dreaded drive back to the OC. It took me 6 hours to get to Los Osos, including the stop at Pea Soup Anderson's and two other stops. It took me 8 and a half hours to get back, with one little McDonald's stop. The rain was coming down so hard, we went about 40 mph for a long time. Just when I was beginning to think I had a good idea of what it's like to drive under water, it started raining twice as hard! I couldn't even see the road and everyone turned on their flashers so we could at least see each other.

Then, we spent 2 hours completely stopped on the 405 when it was closed because of flooding. Of course, if I'd known we were going to be sitting there for 2 hours, we'd have gotten out and played in the rain. Instead, I let Maggie snuggle on my lap for a few minutes, then hurriedly put her back in her seat when we scooted up 5 feet. She fell asleep and slept the rest of the way home (and peed in her car seat).

I ended up climbing into the backseat to feed Dalton while he was still in his carseat. It took too long to get him in and out and I was so paranoid traffic would move and I'd have to wait until I got him back in. It was much easier to hop back over the seat myself. (Obviously, I did not know the freeway was flat-out closed at this point.) Disneyland got shown up this trip and is no longer the most unusual placed I've nursed a baby. I also managed to change his diaper. Successful parenting!

Today I took the kids to Disneyland for a few hours in the morning. It wasn't raining at first, but everything seemed to be closed. We went on a couple rides, then spent a lot of time walking between closed attractions. I walked all the way to Winnie-the-Pooh (closed) then all the way back to Toontown (closed), by which time it had started raining. We went to the Princess Fantasy Faire (also closed, but we rode the carousel a few times until it opened). Maggie isn't "into" the Princesses, but she likes them just as much as any other character. When Toontown finally opened, we went and visited Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Mickey. Dalton and Maggie ate lunch at Mickey's house, then we raced back to the car in the rain.

A big thanks to the random strangers who chased me across the park to give me their extra rain poncho. By the time I got it, the canopies on the stroller and carseat, and my rain jacket were all soaked. The poncho helped a lot, since it poured the whole way back to the car. By then our pants, shoes and socks were also drenched, and there were puddles on the footrests and basket of the stroller.

After resting at the hotel, we drove back to Disneyland when John got off work since the rain had stopped. Only to find out that Disneyland was closed due to rain. (The rain that had stopped.) We wandered around Downtown Disney and had dinner and ice cream, then came home and put the kids to bed.

As Not Fun as the super rainy bits of my morning were, I'm going to do it again tomorrow. Here's to a bit of sunshine, and non-grumpy kids!

[Comments] (1) The Coast: Today I drove to Pat and Alan's house in the pouring rain. It was raining SO hard and was pretty scary at times. John might have been kidding about the waves splashing onto the PCH, but I actually did see a wave rising above the road.

Dalton was a great baby and slept almost the entire time. Maggie dropped her "little coloring" and screamed about it for an hour. I guess I should have gotten off the freeway and gotten it for her. I tried to point out things to distract her, but they were all Christmas trees. "Look, there's IKEA!" "It's NOT IKEA, it's a Bissmas tree!" Eventually I had to pull over and snuggle her back to happiness. We also stopped at Pea Soup Anderson's. Maggie was a great eater and really liked the soup. I had a difficult time with both kids in the restaurant, but we survived.

We eventually made it. As soon as we walked in the door Maggie said, "Where's Leah?" Leah eventually came over and they were two peas in a pod and had tons of fun. Maggie imitated everything Leah said. "Mom, look at my castle!" After they left, Maggie piled pillows onto her Uncle Alan's lap and settled down to watch TV. Most adorable pictures forthcoming. The kids went to sleep great. More fun tomorrow.

[Comments] (3) Happiest Place: Hello from sunny Southern California!

Well, technically, the sun is not shining right now. But we had a beautiful, sunny day in the 70s, complete with flip flops. *sigh* We spent the entire day at Disneyland. Maggie is in love. We spent all morning in Fantasyland, and John and I snuck in a few rides for ourselves. We had to bribe Maggie (fruit snacks) to go on Matterhorm with me the second time. But the ride I had the hardest time getting her on was... Winnie the Pooh. Seriously! She was screaming "No! Not!" in line and I made her go and she loved it and went twice more. She did the same thing to John with Alice in Wonderland. Whenever we get in line for something, she changes her mind, either about what ride she wants to go on, or what color. But overall she was just darling.

Dalton was also very good and obediently took a few naps in his car seat. Everyone thinks he is the cutest baby on earth (well, duh!). We got that all the time with Maggie living in California. I think people in Utah are just tired of looking at babies.

Now he is in his crib screaming over who-knows what. That's about how it went on the airplane as well: Maggie loved it, Dalton was great and slept the whole time, and then was grumpy afterward.

Maggie got to meet Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger (Tigger twice, since John and I each did single rider on Splash Mountain). She was so adorably shy, but loved it. She also got a kiss from Mickey during the dance party parade, and got to see lots of other characters.

Another long day tomorrow. We're going to do California Adventure and a few rides we missed at Disneyland. Hopefully, we get some sleep tonight.

[Comments] (1) The 25 Days of Christmas: Today I took Maggie to the Church History Museum to see the I Am a Child of God exhibit. It would have been more fun with more kids because there are some dress-up/act out activities, but she had a good time. I got a little confused when I had her walk on the straight and narrow path holding on to the iron rod - isn't it supposed to lead to the Kingdom of God or something? Then I realized I had her walk the wrong direction - away from the Tree of Life. Oops.

The words to the song are printed around the room, along with related quotes and other songs, and there are activities for each. There are babies to dress and take care of for "Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear", scripture activities for "Teach me all that I must do" and temples to build for "To live with him some day." It's quite clever.

Afterwards, we met up with John, ate a PBJ dinner in the car, then walk over to Temple Square to look at the lights and the Christmas trees. It wasn't too cold and we got out of there before it got crowded, but after the freeway traffic cleared. Very well executed, if I do say so myself.

Each day this month, I have something fun and Christmas-y planned to do with Maggie. I'm going to post pictures each day, so check my picture blog for the updates.

Great and Salty: On Thursday, I took Maggie to the Great Salt Lake with my cousins Jill and Sarah Whitney. We first went to the Marina, which cost $2 and was quite lame. We finally found a path leading down to the "beach", which was covered in giant cement blocks. It was stinky and the sand was inexplicably green. Sarah was afraid to step on it. Also, the boulders around the marina were covered in giant spiders - we counted 13 in one big web. Yuck!

After that, we drove back to Saltair, which has never looked trashier. However, it does have a decent beach. A lot of decent beach. We had to walk nearly half a mile to get to the lake! We sat down on towels to eat our lunch, and by the time we were done, our pants were soaked. The water was quite warm, and the bugs (no-see-ums) which gathered on the shoreline, dissipated when we waded near them. Other than some algae and some giant dead spiders, it was really nice to wade in the warm water with the soft, squishy, clean sand. I wouldn't mind going back, with trashbags to sit on, clothes to "float" in, and someone else to carry Maggie there and back.

Staycation in American Fork Canyon: John had Thursday and Friday off for Independence Day, so we spent both nights at the cabin and crossed some things off our "staycation" list. We made reservations to hike to Timpanogos Cave and take the tour on Thursday afternoon. The hike is a very steep 1.5 miles and I had a hard time. I can't walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. I did fine the first half, huffing and puffing. By the 3/4 mark, I realized my legs were hurting, probably from carrying an extra 35 pounds (between baby weight, and our backpack). I wasn't sore later though.

When our tour started, Maggie was whining and saying "time to go." Luckily, once we got moving she was fine. We pointed out rocks that looked like different things to keep her distracted. When they turned the lights off, she politely asked for them to turn back on. After our tour, it was pouring rain. Other than our carrier being soaked, we missed the worst of it. Pictures here.

Friday, we walked down to the reservoir in the morning. Maggie enjoyed throwing rocks into the river, and seeing all the animals (chipmunks etc.) In the afternoon, we drove to Cascade Springs. It was a slow and scenic 15-mile drive from the cabin. The pools at the Spring were so beautiful. You can see the fish in the water, and there were lots of little waterfalls and wildflowers. Pictures here.

Saturday we hung out with John's parents, and James and Hannah, at the cabin. In the afternoon was the Holbrook 4th of July party. We hiked down to the reservoir with Hannah again (Pictures), went for a few little hikes, and played on the swings and hammock at a neighboring cabin.

After the party, we went home to try to get Maggie to nap. No such luck. We found out we can't do fireworks at our house because we are up on the mountain. So we ended up driving to John's parents. Naturally, Maggie fell asleep on the way there. We woke her up an hour later to do our measly $10 of fireworks. Logan lit them in the street for us. Maggie was afraid of the noise, but she enjoyed it from afar. She enjoyed looking at all the lights in the sky on the drive home, but was even more glad to see her bed. She slept until almost 10:00 this morning.

Also, someone is turning 30 this week. I spent most of the afternoon sewing.

Staycation: We had a really fun day. This morning we walked from the South Mountain Country Club to the Draper Temple and back. I went to my cousin Julie's baby shower this afternoon. I also got to see my Aunt Sharon and my cousin Jill, which made me happy. We had dinner at Rumbi and took Maggie to the park afterward. Also, we've been working on/buying some birthday presents for Leonard.

We also did some planning of things to do close to home this summer, since we're not doing a vacation we had budgeted for. Next week we're going to visit a spring, and hike/tour Timpanogos Cave on John's work holidays. I also want to take Maggie to the Great Salt Lake, and to the copper mine. All of these things cost a few dollars, but definitely less than taking a trip would be. Maggie and I are also going to get a membership to a nearby water park. It's a better deal than the swimming pool and opens earlier, although it's farther away.

Chadwick Family Funnies: Yellowstone Version: Here's a collection on funny things that came out of Maggie's mouth (over and over) during our trip.

*elephant trumpet* while pointing at Daddy's PJ pants = grey. I guess I said, "grey like an elephant" a few too many times.
Singing ABC song, with no tune. I hope she isn't tone deaf. After Z she sings something that sounds like "Mama ABCs".
"Da Da Doo!": Horses say "neigh"; Ducks say "quack"; people and inanimate objects say "da da doo!" This happened a while ago while Ember was babysitting Maggie, but got excessive during the trip. The kids thought it was hilarious!
"Oh no!": Two predictable times she said this were when Justin pretended to be a raven, and when the bison were rolling on the grass. It is so cute that we bought a postcard of the bison rolling so we can recreate it.
"baby buffalo bunning": This is how Maggie describes what she saw when some baby bison were chasing each other. She often uses "b" for "r".
"Bicky Boss" = Mickey Mouse: Got really tired of listening to that CD.
"Bussy Boom" = "The Bearenstain Bears and the Messy Room": Took me a long time to figure that one out.
"Beaning" = "raining": Usually followed by "Umbrella" which sounds a lot like how she says "banana". We saw a lot of rain.
"There goes Uncle Brook"/"Where Uncle Brook go?": We caravan-ed behind Brook, and heard this at least 50 times a day. She also learned that Uncle Brook has a U on his car, and Uncle Dave has a Y.
"iking!" = "hiking": Maggie loves her hiking carrier. "Ma ai" = "Grandma's car": The one day we didn't drive in Grandma's car, Maggie asked about it all day.
"Montana: You can't afford it." On a sign when we first entered the state. It actually said "drunk driving" in the shape of the state, or something, but this is how we all interpreted it.

And some interesting interpretations during a game of Catchphrase:
Susie: stick = something you hit someone with.
Justin: fishbowl = place where aquatic life lives.

The Grand Tetons: We've spent the last two days in the Grand Teton National Park. We saw some boats, a frog, a tiny snake, and a moose carcass. Yesterday we went to Jenny Lake and String Lake and did a hike all the way around String Lake (about 3.5 miles). It wasn't a very hard hike, and we got beautiful views of the lake.

Today we went with just Brook, Erin and Ember and Jodi and Franco into the park. We went to Jackson Lake and dropped off Jodi and Franco for fishing ("iffing"). Then we took off to find a hike. We found one that went over a sandbar to an island and all the way around the island. The sun came out - we haven't had terrific weather on this trip, so this was really nice. We stopped at a rocky beach. Maggie learned how fun it is to throw rocks into the water. Ember and Erin waded in the water. After we walked back we ate lunch on the shore with Jodi and Franco, and acted like kids by throwing rocks into the water.

We're heading home tomorrow. It's going to be a long drive.

Yellowstone: Part 2: We had a lot of fun our last few days in Yellowstone. We saw bears, elk, a fox, big horn sheep (including babies!), coyotes, pelicans, a parade of bison in the road, lots of geysers, hot springs and mud pots. We got to do an awesome 3.5 mile hike to Mystic Falls. We were lucky enough to see Old Faithful erupt from a viewpoint. Maggie loves hiking. John also took her to see some bison up close, but I was too scared. We saw Mud Volcano and Dragon's Mouth, which were really cool.

We went to Mammoth Falls and The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The canyon was one of my favorite places so far. We hiked down to the Lower Falls where we were standing right on the edge of the 300 ft drop. The water was high and the river was so wide and swift. We also visited the Upper Falls, then hiked along the South Rim 1 mile from the Upper Falls to Artist Point. Maggie was asleep in the car, so we got to hike carefree - John's parents watched her, then we took them down to see Artist Point, which is the best view we've seen.

[Comments] (3) Downtown: Today (after cleaning the church again) we took Maggie downtown for sight-seeing. First we hiked Ensign Peak. That was really cool. You can see the entire valley, including the Salt Lake, and all the way into Utah Valley. I'd never been up there before. It is a steep hike, although not long, but I was breathing for two, and forgot to change out of my flip flops.

After that we went to The Gateway. We watched the water fountains, and met my cousin Alyssa for lunch at CPK. Then we road TRAX to Temple Square. Maggie loves trains, but as soon as it started to move she said, "no train!" She got over it though. We walked around Temple Square, and went to the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. I think that was Maggie's favorite part, just pressing her nose up against the glass on the Observation Deck.

We went to the visitor's center and took Maggie up to see The Christus. I'm afraid we don't have one of those cute stories to share in Sacrament Meeting about how Maggie loved it. She was more interested in the escalator ("up-up"), and in peering down in between the ramp railings. And in pointing to the Earth and saying "Earth ball!" (Grandma June gave her an Earth stress ball.) She did seem intrigued by Jesus' "owies".

We took the train back to the Gateway and went to the Planetarium (free, except for the IMAX). Maggie was pretty fascinated by some of the exhibits. Mostly the little balls in perpetual motion.

Maggie and I crashed when we got home. Maggie is still crashed.

UPDATE: Now every time we mention Jesus she says, "Jesus Owies" several times. Maybe we have a story to tell in Sacrament Meeting after all.

[Comments] (5) CHA Recap: Awesome stuff:

1. Staying at the Hilton.
2. Being in Southern California.
3. Flying JetBlue
4. Eating at Cheesecake Factory - twice.
5. Eating authentic Mexican food (even if we had to walk a mile into "un-Disneyfied" Anaheim to get it.
6. Staying up until midnight giggling every night.
7. Yanking old Bazzill color swatches out of the swatch books.
8. Meeting Lisa and Jen from the Coordinates Collections Design Team.
9. Getting lots of free stuff - and not keeping most of it. I'm very proud of myself for fitting everything I brought back into a Making Memories paper holder.
10. Being inspired.
11. Snuggling with Maggie, who seems to have grown and gotten smarter in the four days I was gone.
12. Taking a 2 hour nap.
13. Coming home.

Not so awesome: the 40 degree weather swing on the way home. And I am still exhausted.

I am now ready to start putting my life together, hopefully before the hundreds of products we ordered start rolling in to be put in the store.

Post-Busy Season Fun Week, Part 2: Another four-day, fun-times recap.

Tuesday: Erin was kind enough to watch Maggie all morning so that John and I could attend the temple together. Maggie had a great time borrowing some of Ember's toys and playing with Jazmine. What does Jazzy say? "woof!" of course.

Wednesday we went grocery shopping and took Maggie to storytime. Then we made some lunch and went to spend time with Grandma June. She wasn't doing very well and wouldn't let us leave until her son arrived so Maggie missed her nap for not the first or last time this week.

Thursday morning we got ready and drove to Park City. We went on a shopping spree at the outlets. I kept saying to John, "you're not spending enough" and "remember, we're saving money by being here." Sadly, the Geoffrey Beene outlet is closing. Happily, we bought piles of work clothes for John and shirt for me at 70% off there. We bought a stocking stuffer for each of us and another shirt for me and absolutely nothing for Maggie.

We stayed at Uncle Justin's condo for the low price of $5 in household products. Maggie enjoyed Meet the Numbers and John and I enjoyed our library books. We also took a long walk around the neighborhood. We went to dinner at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, A Taste of Saigon, in downtown Park City, and walked to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory where we spent $6 on dessert and let Maggie play in the bookstore. Then Maggie went to bed (she refused to nap) and John and I watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Today we lay around, went for another long walk and watched some TV. (Cable! Playhouse Disney!) Then we walked around downtown again, bought a Christmas ornament, ate lunch at Pizza Hut, cleaned up the condo and came home. This was all cleverly planned to allow Maggie to nap on the way home.

It's been nice to have John home for this week and we'll miss him when he goes back to work on Monday. I am excited for Maggie to start napping again though. She's exhausting!

[Comments] (1) Lagoon/Cabin Fun Days: Two more long, exhausting and exciting days this week. My friend Theresa and I took our babies to Lagoon. She had 1/2 price tickets and no one to go with and insisted on paying for me, so we went. Did you know that you have to pay to take babies to Lagoon? What a joke. They can go to Lagoon A Beach and on three of the rides for free. So that's what we did.

We got there before it opened and staked out a prime spot on the "beach". I decided to go on a waterslide before there was a line. Well, I climbed all the way up there without a tube and was left with Scary Slide #1 or Scary Slide #2 - you know, the plunge to your death slides? What was I thinking? The Lagoon website says "plunge nearly 70 feet straight down". Yikes. I hyperventilated the whole way down, but managed to survive. Barely.

We basically floated around the lazy river all day, and I mean all day. Maggie and Devan both fell asleep! I got a bit sunburned in places I missed, either because I couldn't reach or Maggie was distracting my sunscreen-putting-on. We rode the fastest merry-go-round I've ever been on, and waited in line for the train to take us around Utah's Second Largest Zoo. Then we came home.

Today we went to Grandma June's and Susan picked the three of us up and took us to the cabin. A day at the cabin with my in-laws and Maggie's great-grandma? Fun, I promise! We sat around doing nothing and chatting while Maggie played with cars. I took Maggie for a little walk to pet some horses, which she loved. I haven't been for a walk up there without someone to talk to maybe ever. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet. Maggie was exhausted but propping her eyelids open and was perfectly content with my occasional commentary of butterflies and flowers.

Tomorrow we are going to Logan for Jamie and Dave's "reception" so another fun and long day for us.

[Comments] (1) Park City Fun: Yesterday afternoon we drove our cranky baby to Park City to have some fun on Uncle Ernie (as John calls work when he buys us things). We had these passes good for unlimited-everything at Park City resort. Unfortunately, between our sick baby and our small baby we didn't get to do everything, but it was a ton of fun. We took Maggie up the ski lift to go on the Alpine Slide. Then we had some dinner and Maggie took a little nap. She woke up in a much better mood and we went on the lift and slide two more times, which Maggie was thrilled about. We also each took a turn on the Alpine Coaster. I love roller coasters, so this "personal coaster" was way fun. We also went over and looked at the horses.

Overall, a fun activity-filled afternoon that I never would have paid for myself. Thanks, Uncle Ernie.

[Comments] (3) Chicago Travelogue: I made it home about 10:30 last night. It was a long trip, but I had so much fun! I am already excited for CHA winter in Anaheim in January. So here's the scoop on our trip.

First of all, I would like to say that I love my Rainbow sandals. Yes, I wore flipflops to the show. Don't worry, I checked with Jamie first and she insisted she wouldn't be embarassed. I wore flipflops for two treks halfway across the country, walking all over downtown Chicago, and two days of the trade show, and my feet loved it. Way to go, Rainbow.

I didn't read a thing about Chicago or what we could do there ahead of time because for some reason I thought we weren't arriving until 6 pm, either because that's how long the flight took, or because Jamie had me convinced we'd be delayed. So when we arrived at our hotel at noon, we were a bit bewildered. After a chat with a friendly concierge, we set out (quite unprepared I might add) for a sight-seeing adventure. We paid $5 each for a transit pass and rode the train 1 hour into the city. Hmm. Should have asked how long the trip would take. I think the subway was a cultural experience for Jamie.

We were intended to take a free shuttle to Navy Pier and have lunch, but we were starving, and finally ate at a Corner Bakery. The free shuttle had a huge line and was no where in sight, so when a bus that said "Navy Pier" drove up, we thought "hey! transit pass... let's take the bus," and did. We walked around the Pier, hot and sticky (me wearing jeans and flipflops and *gasp* no sunscreen). We used a BOGO coupon on a speedboat ride out on Lake Michigan for a quick tour and view of the city. It was great and refreshing (Jamie got splashed). Then we made the 2 hour trek back to the hotel.

Thursday night we went with Jamie's friend Ashley to some sneak peek events - one was SEI, the other some company we weren't interested in, but they had better free food. Ashley won a small prize, and we all got a pack of an older line, a mini book and an album.

Friday morning we got up bright and early to march around the show collecting catalogues. We did the catalogue thing, aisle by aisle, I made an adorable Halloween book by Little Yellow Bicycle, and we shuffled back to the hotel. I should mention that the convention center has zero eateries anywhere nearby (although O'hare has the best airport food selection I've ever seen). Yuck. We ate in the bar for dinner and didn't eat lunch at all.

Evenings are spent with catalogues covering every inch of flat space, planning out kits. Overall we got about 4 1/2 months of kits planned, which is awesome and record-breaking. I got to do exciting jobs like picking out Bazzill (this is not nearly as exciting as it sounds and is also very difficult) and copying down what we ordered. I also kept a running list of places to go, people to see, stuff to buy, mistakes to fix, orders to make, papers to match etc.

Saturday was more of the same only a little more refined. We'd visited all the booths and looked at all the new products. This day we ran around making sure things matched, picking things out, coming up with embellishment and add on ideas, and doing the occasional make n take. I made a notebook using Basic Grey's new Eva line, a recipe book by Teresa Collins and a wooden mini book at Kaiser Craft. Kaiser is awesome because the art director stands there and throws out stuff while you're waiting in line (and I had to wait a while). I got 8 packages of their rhinestones and pearls, which I know love. Don't worry, Jamie ordered ALL of their new sparklies which I now get to enter into the store. Saturday night, more sprawling, more order making, more Bazzill swatching.

By Sunday we were killer organized. We handed in orders, made a few changes, did a make n take and ended up sitting in the lobby going through our free stuff because we had nothing else to do. CHA=free stuff to me. Seriously. I won a huge prize, plus a lot of companies give you gifts/samples when you order. Basic Grey and Scenic Route handed out a sheet of each one of their new papers. So that's all in addition to the make n takes. I took pictures on Jamie's camera, although that was before we'd turned in most of our orders and gotten more. I am only keeping about 1/3 of the stuff, so CC prize winners will be seeing some of it soon!

We ended up going to the airport 4 hours early because we were tired of eating hot tamales for lunch. (Thanks, Bazzill!) We ate a Macaroni Grill, then sat around reading for hours. I'm so glad to be home. Maggie was kind enough to sleep three hours so I could sleep a bit in addition to getting laundry and unpacking done. I missed my baby and it's good to be home.

Disney 1-2-3:
Miles driven: 1500
Pictures taken: 107
Videos taken: 1
Times Maggie rode a merry-go-round: 5 (3 horses, 1 sea otter and 1 magical underwater oyster bench)
Times Maggie threw up: 2
Days we were waiting on Main Street when Disneyland opened: 4
Wiggle shows watched: 7
Dollars under budget: $184
Kisses from Mickey: 3
Pink shirts bought for Maggie: 2
Pluto encounters: 3
Train rides: 6
Times John and I went on adult rides alone: 15 (yay for baby switch and single rider)
Hours of rain: 6
SPF Maggie managed to tan through: 50
Current price of a one-day park hopper ticket: $91
Total amount we paid for the Disney annual passes we used this trip: $125
Stuffed animals snuggled by Maggie: 27
New hidden mickeys discovered: 2
People who thought Maggie was So Darn Cute: 32
Times Maggie slept in bed with us: 4
High score on Astro Blasters: 385,000 (Susie)
Things Maggie did for the first time: Walked across a swinging bridge; rode Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, gave Pluto a kiss, went down a slide alone, climbed up stairs upright, and told us what ride she wanted to go on.

Maggie + Mickey = Friends: Why is it that Maggie can zonk out on my lap with pirates yelling all around, but have a hard time falling asleep in her crib with her soft blankie, stuffed monkey and two pacifiers? Sheesh.

Maggie met Mickey today. She grinned and poked his nose. We went on lots of rides, ate lots of food and had a good time. We had to wake Maggie up for the parade in the evening. Jiminy Cricket tried desperately to get her to smile, but she just stared. He even made faces (wiggled his hands on his head; he's wearing a mask, people). She finally caught on, though. It's fun to watch her face light up when she realizes why something is exciting, or what we've been standing around for.

We're in for another fun day tomorrow. We haven't even set foot in California Adventure yet, so that's on the menu.

[Comments] (1) "Wish you were here!": We are on vacation!! John is taking Monday off and we drove to "The Coast" to see Aunt Pat et al. I say "The Coast" because I think it's funny that I call it that when we live 5 minutes from the beach (but 4 hours away). We are having a great time. Maggie was enthralled by the antics of Leah and Joel, but exhausted herself into oblivion. This afternoon, Shannon and Pat walked with us to the estuary and we looked at the Elfin Garden, including really neat pigmy oaks strung with lichen. We are going to walk to the bay tomorrow (Morro Bay) and also visit a nearby farm/hayride/hay maze place for fun fall festivities.

[Comments] (2) Maggie Pan's Flight: John thoughtfully bought me a ticket to bring Maggie to Utah during his busy time (and before our Disneyland passes are good again) so yesterday was Maggie's first airplane ride. She was really good. I was lucky enough to sit in the aisle seat on the first row next to two young girls who loved her. She napped the first 45 minutes, then played, then cried for about the last 20 minutes. Not bad. I even made it out to Grandma's car with the carseat, suitcase etc.

Last night the whole family came over for pizza (minus Brook who is out on a fire). Maggie got hogged. She found her Uncle Nathan quite intriguing, perhaps because he sounds a bit like her daddy! When I put her to bed I grabbed Boggle from the game closet and Jamie, Ashley, Erin and I played. Ashley beat me by 1 point; a good game!

Today I am taking Maggie to visit Tasha, a friend from BYU who has a little girl a bit younger. We are headed up to the BRAND NEW! cabin tonight with Tyler and Ember; Jamie's coming up later with the older boys and Erin will come up tomorrow.

[Comments] (2) : Today we took Maggie to Exposition Park in LA. We went to the Natural History Museum, where I took 10 pictures of the preserved MegaMouth shark for Leonard. The Dinosaur hall was closed, which was disappointing, but we still got to see the mammal halls, the mineral and gem exhibit and an exhibit on Night at the Museum. Afterwards we walked past the rose garden and went to the California Science Museum. Since we'd already paid $25 in parking and admission, I didn't feel bad walking by the "donation" box. The only exhibit that looked familiar was the eggs and baby chicks, but they had a lot of cool exhibits on the body, energy, transportation etc. Both museums also had pretty neat Discovery Centers for the kids.

Also, I wanted to mention all the cute parents, and especially cute daddies (including Maggie's!) who had taken their kids to the museum to teach them about dinosaurs and animals. It reminded me of my cute parents who took their kids to the museum to teach them about dinosaurs and animals. Go parents!

: Today Leonard, John and I went to Flushing Meadows to see the World's Fair leftovers. The Unisphere was very cool, but all the fountains were turned off or drained and the Pavillion was closed (although the mosaic map on the floor appeared to be completely gone anyway). Still, it was neat to see and a nice walk. We burned some of the calories from our Thanksgiving feast yesterday.

The tarts Leonard made (pear and chocolate-pecan) were excellent. I also really loved his Parkerhouse rolls and the gravy. I mostly did prep work with the vegetables, but it was fun to help. We made a big batch of truffles today, chocolate, almond and mint flavored. And of course we had yummy mashed potatoes.

Early tomorrow morning we are heading back to the West Coast to rest up for the busy month ahead. We are moving soon, and the next 3 or 4 weeks will be the busiest for me at work. It was nice to get such a great vacation in before all that. Beet has hardly been any trouble, other than my poor hurty feet. Yesterday was the only day we've had rain. It's really turned out to be good timing for our vacation.

[Comments] (1) : We are having an awesome time in New York. So far we have seen Central Park, the Met, Times Square, Union Square, Washington Square, NYU, The Statue of Liberty (yay!), Chinatown, Little Italy, took a cruise around all of Manhattan Island, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. This morning we got up quite early and went to the Farmer's Market with Leonard to get fresh vegetables, chicken, eggs, bread and etc. for the massive amounts of food we are making for tomorrow.

This afternoon John and I are going to the top of the Rockefellar Center, walking around Central Park some more, and going to see the Manhattan Temple. Tomorrow is devoted to cooking, eating delicious food and relaxing. Friday Leonard is taking us to Flushing Park in Queens. It's been a very fun trip and we're lucky to have a nice place to stay with Leonard and Sumana and be able to see everything we've wanted. Love the public transit.

[Comments] (1) : My baby sister is on her way to Serbia. (What is with those Richardson girls and third world countries?)

[Comments] (2) Alaska Travelogue: We're back from Alaska! I took notes.

Wednesday, May 24: We flew to Anchorage and took a bus down to the port in Whittier. We saw some white mountain sheep on cliffs high above the road, and three moose. Also, the bus drove through a 2 1/2 mile train tunnel to get to Whittier. I thought it was cool. Being a bus full of people, we got to go to the front of the line (one-way tunnel).

Thursday, May 25: A sea day. We cruised up College Fjord and got up early to see the Smith and Harvard glaciers. The captain turned the boat all the way around so people could view them from their balconies. We didn't have a balcony, so we went out on deck. My first glacier! There was ice floating everywhere in the water. The cruise ships, by the way, employ local pilots in each area to help with navigation.

Friday, May 26: Sitka. We decided to go on a boat tour to see sea otters. We saw two large rafts of them, a bald eagle, and also a pile of sea lions hauled out on a rock. I got sick on the boat.

Saturday, May 27: Juneau. This was the best day. For our first tour, we took a helicopter up to Mendenhall glacier and the Juneau ice field. Flying in a helicopter is a lot like riding Soarin' Over California, only somewhat louder. It's not bumpy like a plane, you just float up and float down. We got awesome views of the glaciers, with "Windex" ice, and the pilot took us between two mountain peaks. We went dog sledding on the ice field at the camp there. The huskies were so cute and friendly. They live to pull the sled for you! I "drove" first, and that was a bit scary, but I didn't fall off. We also got to hold some new little puppies - so cute!

Since we were in Juneau for 16 hours, we also bought a ticket to the Mt. Roberts Tramway. We took it up twice, went on some muddy hikes around the area, and we saw a marmot! It looked like a giant guinea pig with a bushy tail.

Sunday, May 28: Skagway. We had another awesome tour in this town. we took a fast boat out to Glacier Point, where we took a bus ride and a hike down to the river running off the Davidson Glacier. Here we canoed up to the lake and around in the face of the glacier, also getting some close looks at the icebergs. It is really hard to get a perspective on a glacier, without a person on it, or something to compare it too. It didn't rain at all on our cruise (amazing!) but this day was very cold. They gave us muck boots and raingear - I was wearing three shirts and four jackets! It was really amazing to see the glacier up close like that.

Some cool glacier facts: It takes 100 feet of snow to make glacial ice. Most glaciers are receeding. When they recede they leave morraines, or piles of dirt, which general have ice under them for years after. (you can see a cool cross section of one in our pictures) Long Island is an example of a glacial morraine. Seriously!

Sunday was also the Midnight Buffet. We didn't go last time because John was sick, but we got up (after a four hour nap) and went. It was cool to see, I guess.

Monday, May 29: Ketchikan. We slept in. We didn't have any tours, so we wandered around town, and found a walking tour brochure. We did most of both of the tours and got a nice perspective on the city. We walked along a road on a cliff overlooking the sea and got to see several bald eagles perched on the tops of trees growing down the cliff. We were so close to them! Bought huckleberry gummy bears.

Well, that sums it up. We had such an awesome time with the "old" people. The animals were so beautiful and fun, and I especially loved spending time with my husband, all to myself! I'll link to the pictures once they finish uploading.

[Comments] (2) Alaska: Ready or not, here I come!

[Comments] (2) : Well, Fun Stuff first. We had a good time in San Francisco. I especially loved that we were able to visit the Zoo. We got to see lots of fun animals, including the anteater (which doesn't eat ants but ingests a lot of sand), the albino kangaroo, the dancing rhinocerous, the whiskered hippo and the sunbathing lemurs. We also got to watch the penguins and the big cats be fed. And Big Cats! One of their tigers was HUGE! My favorite was Orkey the seal. Seals only live to be 25 in the wild and 35-40 in captivity, and this seal was over 35. His enclosure was rather lame, but the sign said they didn't want to move him or introduce a new friend because of his age- they didn't want to stress him out. I thought that was very considerate of them. He was a playful, friendly seal.

Rachel, John and I went to Chinatown on Friday morning. We parked on Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. John got his sweet bread and some mango soy milks. We had a nice walk around. We also drove down to Jollibee in Daly City for John. Such a spoiled boy.

I also had a lot of fun playing games with everyone. John hopes I got my game fix, and I probably did. We also watched A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was pretty funny. My favorite quote, of course, was when they were shooting each other with the Point of View gun and the President turns it on the girl and she says, "It won't do anything; I'm already a woman." Mom and Leonard said the book is funnier so I will add that to my reading list.

[Comments] (2) Spilled Beans: Guess what? I'm spoiled!!!

Oh wait, you already knew that. Well, here's further proof: John is taking me on an Alaskan cruise next May! We want to do it all: dogsledding, flightseeing, canoeing around a glacier.

Like I said, spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.

[Comments] (1) San Diego: On Saturday, John and I went to San Diego. We left early and went to the temple first. It was a big, beautiful temple, although John said the geometric lines reminded him of waiting in line for Space Mountain. (I told you we go to Disneyland too much.) There were a few people getting married, and a little girl in a fancy dress stomping about and pouting, while her mom tried to take a picture. ("We have to document it, Hannah!")

After the temple, we went to the outlets in Carlsbad. We went in all the shops and saw a few things we liked. We didn't buy much though. The parking lot was crazy!! Apparently, people don't do anything but shop down here. On the drive home, I got to talk to Leonard about various Christmas presents.

: While I was looking up Romania on the Atlas, to see where Odesa was for Rachel, I noticed that all of the city names used Romanian letters and were spelled in Romanian, except for Bucharest (Bucharesti- with a little comma on the t). Weird.

We had a great time this weekend, hiking Arches. I think it's so awesome that you can climb right up into most of the arches. I especially enjoyed Partition Arch, Wall Arch and Private Arch (which we actually got to have for ourselves for a while). Even though I'm not that fit, we probably hiked about 15 miles and I'm hardly sore at all- my body is just exhausted. As John said, this is a good reminder to do fun things before we have kids. We should go camping again.

Cruisin': I have about a million things to say about our wonderful trip. I even made a list so I could remember everything.

First of all, our free "obstructed" balcony was wonderful. There wasn't anything in the way of the view. It was wonderful to wake up to the sun rising, and to read out on our balcony, watch the ship come into the port- I'm so spoiled!

On Monday we changed clothes seven times- I counted. We worked out in the gym, went in the spa, sat out in the sun. Tuesday we went to one of the shows, with a swing singer and a few dance numbers. We also went to an art auction, the first of three we attended, to get the free seriographs they were handing out after. We now have three nice pieces of art, each of which at least one of us likes.

Wednesday we were in Puerto Vallarta. We went shopping, then went on a "jungle tour" to Mismaloya. We went on a hike in the jungle and swam in a natural pool with some fishies. I got lots of mosquito bites. We saw baby pineapple, a gum tree, tons of mango trees (these were all over in rural Mexico) and bamboo. We saw an iguana from the bus on a tree in the city. By the way, 100% of the tequila in the world is made in this state. That night a local mariachi band came onboard and played, and there were also dancers. It was a pretty good show.

Thursday we were in Mazatlan. For all the hype, I didn't think the shopping was that good. Of course, that was the day John got sick, and we didn't have a lot of time to shop anyway. We went on a seven hour bus tour to some tiny villages in the Sierra Madre. We got to watch people making brickes, baskets, and really nice wood furniture. Lunch at a Mexican restaurant was included. There was really yummy coconut banana cream pie.

Friday was the best day. In Cabo San Lucas, we ended up going on a boat tour and to a beach club, which we hadn't planned before. The boat tour went around the arches, and the sea lion rocks at the very tip of Baja California. The sun was just coming up and it was beautiful. Then we went to a private beach club and spent a few hours playing around in the beautiful, warm, clear water. I saw a school of fish swim by. I found three pieces of sea glass. We met a couple there from Tehachapi named John and Susie and, even weirder, they were the only other people we met on the cruise that didn't drink. After the beach we got dropped off downtown and walked back to the port, shopping along the way.

The only thing we really bought the whole time was a yellow bowl with chillis painted on it. One of the free things I got was a silver Aztec calendar charm that I can put on my charm bracelet. I also got a free sapphire and a cheap gold charm bracelet- you could get a different charm at each port.

Saturday we mostly just lay around watching movies so John could feel better. Poor thing had a really bad fever for a few days, so we got lots of sleep. One thing I was disappointed in was the food on the ship. I guess I'm just not a fancy food person.

[Comments] (4) Mini Travelogue, Since I Never Update: At Rachel's request, I am finally updating. Since my last entry, I have been to California and back and gone down to part-time. California was great. Jamie and Dave have a beautiful house and adorable kids who love their uncle John. I enjoyed watching cooking shows with Jamie, looking through her scrapbook stuff (she's a professional) and admiring their furniture (we have been promised first dibs on the cofee tables and Tyler's baby clothes).

Disneyland was awesome. It was fun to just be a couple and only have one other person to agree with. Thanks to FastPass, and getting there before it opened, we got to go on pretty much everything with very little hassle. I was sorely disappointed when we sat waiting with terrific seats for Fantasmic and it was cancelled, but I supposed there's always another time.

John likes playing with Tonks. He just can't admit to liking a cat! We were only in Bakersfield for a short time, but Christmas is not too far away.

Now that I am part-time, I don't have to go to work on Tuesdays, unless I'm covering. It's odd; I have groups MWF and staff meeting on Thurs. The next two Tuesdays I have training, so that is taken care of, but today I am home making and buying Christmas gifts. John is worried I'll be bored and kept giving me suggestions on what to do. Unfortunately, I don't have too much to do at work on any other day, so I'll save some of those suggestions for later in the week.

Covering for a different group every time is going to be a challenge, but I did a little of it at the end of my internship, and it's not too bad. I did one group yesterday, I have one on Friday and two full days at the end of December (and I'm sure plenty more in between). Now that no one is on maternity leave we (me and the activity supervisor) can finally do what we were hired to do. She's been doing my job since four months before I was hired.

: This morning John and I worked together on making an eclair cake and a chicken broccoli casserole. We are having John's friend Jaron over for dinner this evening, which means directly after church.

Our Thanksgiving plans our nearly set. I have work off, so we're driving to Whiskey Pete's on Tuesday, then down to Jamie and Dave's in Mission Viejo. Friday morning we'll drive up to Bakersfield, then head back to Utah Sunday. We are still debating whether or not to go to Disneyland on Thursday. The $80 getting a Utah driver's license saved us on our insurance is still worth more than any deals we could have gotten from Southern California residency, but lower prices would make The Happiest Place on Earth more appealling.

: Well, tubing was an adventure. We actually ended up renting a raft which none of us could maneuver very well. We had several incidents with tree branches during which we screamed like girls, got scraped, squished into the bottom of the boat, and jumped off. Actually, Heather was the only one to jump off, but it was either that or lose an eye. It was really funny to see nine girls hiding in the boat rather than just paddling to get away from the dang tree.

Tonight we are, apparently, having 213 over to dinner. mmm, food. Three hours on the Provo River made me pretty hungry.

: Went ice skating yesterday. I'm really sore today, from skating and from falling and from wearing the skates in the first place.

I just got home and I am so tired. I've only ben up 19 hours or so, and it's not like I've been doing anything but sometimes that's the most tiring.

Airplane Adventures First we went to the wrong airport. Are people really that dumb? Apparently, that would be us. Luckily it only took us 20 minutes to find and get to the correct one. I met a very interesting lady in ABQ. She had broken her ankle boarding a flight four hours earlier and was getting ready to try again. We had a long chat about love, life, and getting the most out of both. She was hilarious. I got randomly selected to be searched by two hilarious black ladies. One of them was setting the beeper off on the other girl's earring. When they asked me how old I was, I forgot. Is that unusual? Everything I was wearing beeped, right down to the gum wrapper in my pocket. Apparently, overalls aren't the best thing to wear to the airport.

Both of my flights arrived early, and luckily so did my mommy. Sat in lots of traffic, even after avoiding the 405, went to that yummy Chinese restaurant in Valencia, and spent three hours at a scrapbooking party, when I really wanted to be at home in bed.

Now I have finally excavated my bed *ok the cat just landed on my face* and I'm going to it.

: Ok, so I'm in Texas. I feel the need to relate the drive up with Joe to our Texas roadtrip (don't have the ability to find the link right now) for Alyson's wedding a couple years back. Here are some dumb signs I saw.

Form one line (Texas). Nathan and his brother (Everett) decided with me that it's because people are too stupid to learn what Merge means. Don't touch power lines! (Billboards throughout New Mexico). We found it somewhat scary they felt the need to warn people. Also, once upon a time Leonard and I decided that there could be no better way to phrase Gusty winds may exist but on my drive to California on Wednesday, I saw Gusy wind area, which I felt was much better. Also: Kabuki a Japanese restaurant.

So... I'm in Texas. Kinda random. I spent last night trying to insist that I'm no longer the kind of person who randomly drives to a different state. Unfortunately, the fact that I woke up in Utah Wednesday, California Thursday, New Mexico Friday and Texas this morning hindered my disputing.

I'm having fun though. We played minature golf today at a place with little animals, kinda like a zoo except they weren't real animals and I don't know any zoos with that many elephants or giraffes. I somehow made three hole-in-ones, although I lost overall with 52 points.

Well, I don't know what else to say. I'm staying here (at Nate's house, near Dallas) until Thursday when I'm flying back to California. I'm probably going to stay home longer than I planned to have some more time with my mommy, although I was supposed to move out of my apartment today. Hehe. Yeah, dispite any arguments I may give my randomness has not gone down since my freshman year. In fact, it may have even gotten worse (better??)

: Here I am healthy. I had a lovely vacation in Bucharesti. Ok, actually it was on an equal scale with Constanta except there was no bad weather to blame. Three street kids from Iasi came down with us (legally). We walked around lost, walked around a park with a yucky lake. We went to Palatul Parliamentului, which is the official title, but everyone calls it the House of the People, which is the second largest building in the world for those of you who haven't memorized the Guiness Book of World Records. It's pretty big. The taxi dropped us off on the exact opposite side of where we needed to be, so we got an excellent sense of it's vastness walking around it. It was just like your average palace, except for the ashtrays and Coke machines and the trade show being set up in it. That's the problem with palaces built in the 1980s I guess. We also took some pictures of Arcul de Triomf, quite similar to L'Arc de Triumph in Paris, except not to big and you can't get to it, though I suppsed you could die trying pretty easily.

Then we got up at 3AM and went to the Bucharesti airport (actually in Otopeni) with a rather scary hotel manager and a relatively kind taxi driver; relatively kind as in he accepted 600,000 lei (apx. $18) for both cars, instead of the even-more-ripoffy $50 he asked for and I insisted we didn't have. We barely had the 600,000 lei.

We made it to the airport alive, and the next one actually, and then I had to say goodbye to all the other girls and sit alone for quite a while and then I got on another plane and sat there for quite a while. I made friends with a lovely young woman named Manar, from Egypt, and I helped her get her luggage and with her immigration and customs stuff, and she waited with me while I found Leonard. Then I went to Leonard's and tried to read, but I fell asleep on a big comfy chair after an hour. Leonard's work is very nice. I don't know if it's extraordinary, or if it's just the first building I've been in since Romania and the comparison overwhelmed me.

Security Checks: When we visited the People's Palace, we joked that the security was tighter there than at the airport in Bucharesti. Well it wasn't quite so true. They made me take off my shoes and they searched my bag (Kristin says I should have offered the guard a mint when he opened all my little tins). I think I had my passport checked about four times and my things x-rayed thrice, once for US customs. We had to do every type of security thing in Amsterdam right before boarding although only NorthWest (US bound) flights had to do it. A cute little dog sniffed out my bag at SFO. Did I have any food in it? the officer asked. Aside for the four open packages of biscuiti? It was the orange I made sure to eat on the plane; the dogs can smell them for days afterwards, he said. Manar, however, had to give up her liver sandwich.

: Ahem. Constanta. Sucked. Ok it didn't really, we just had more fun making fun of it than actually being there. Well, we got off the train at 630, having slept little and horribly, spent 2 hours looking for a hotel that noone had heard of, and finally found it. Shut down. On our left was a hotel for 500,000 a night, and on our right, one for 120,000, both exactly what you paid for. We stayed at the sleazy, one-star Hotel Turist. By sleazy I mean, the only other female we saw was the cleaning lady and they didn't provide toilet paper in the community bathroom. Then we tried to find this street in town that looked like it had all the stores on it and walked around a lot. Did I mention it was pouring rain this whole time? Well, we finally found the street at about 1200, we had asked 15 people for directions by this time.

Susie (in Romanian): Do you know the Hotel TiboTours? Stupid Lady: I don't speak English. Susie (still in Romanian): We speak Romanian. Can you tell us where the Hotel is? Stupid Lady: Sorry, I studied French and Russian.

ARGH! OK so we found the street we wanted, looked at lots of stores, took a picture of the Black Sea, ate in a bar. Kristin and I, the only people awake at the table, learned lots about a certain kind of beer from our placemats. "Our story would end here... in tears. But thankfully, in 1967..." Barf. Then we went to a beach out in Mamaia, by our hotel, a totally different town apparently. Then we went to bed.

Then we got up and went back to the first beach. The Black Sea, a brief history: it's green, toxic green. It's really cold (I think I may have poked a finger in at some point). The beach is covered in shells *crunch, crunch*. You have to climb 156 stairs covered in trash and slime to get back out. Now you know. Then we met the Brasov girls and went for a nice walk around town to see a lighthouse (it turned out to be 8m tall... quite disappointing) and walk along the waterfront. That side of the sea was lined in huge cement jacks. Does anyone know what those are for? We discussed many theories while dining at La Dulce Vita, but it was mostly us making stuff up.

We had a sweet old man draw our pictures outside the "dreary aquarium" (we got lots of hilariously honest quotes from our guidebook). We walked back. Went to the other beach (in Mamaia). Discovered it might actually be kind of cool in the summer. There was a huge boardwalk (8km) all fenced off, with empty stores and 27,000 beds (got that from the guidebook). The guidebook had nothing bad to say about Mamaia's beaches with their fine, golden sand. I'm pretty sure we weren't really in Mamaia then. We had a nice 6 inch layer of shells on our sand. I fed a beach dog outcast an entire package of Coconitos. We went to see Moulin Rouge at a theatre which turned out to be a disco that night. Well, we found the theatre it was really at eventually. Typical Romanian movie. The projector and the sound broke halfway through.

The next day we walked around the lake (there was a lake there) (two actually), the sun actually appeared. Then we went to church. Then we sat at the train station, got on the train, had to get our tickets changed, ran to the other end of the train, got on again, sat there for eight hours, came home. It's raining here now. Figures.

OK that was our vacation. It was really fun. I got to see the Black Sea.

: We all had a great time on our "o pauza" in Brasov. The only bad thing is that now we all need an o pauza from our o pauza, because it was so busy. We made a discotec in our train compartment on the way back up. (ingredients: Two Kristens, one Lacra, a Susie and a Lisa. Starve and bore thoroughly). We are back at work now and having lots of fun doing that. We took kids outside today, they were so cute! The sun is so good for them, and they can explore and play with kids from other filters. Two of my kids are in the hospital for infectious diseases (there must be thousands of hospitals in Iasi). Lacra got really upset when I called and "nonchalantly" asked where it was so I could visit them. She says our vaccinations (and good hygiene) won't completely protect us against some strains of Hepatitis the US government appears to be unaware of. Because unless I turn into a vampire, CDC assures me I am pretty dang safe. I might just go anyway.

: Brasov is really nice. The train ride was long and fairly boring. The hotel is a bit scary although nicer than anticipated. It's also $10 per person per night and comes with and actual real breakfast (eggs, eggs, or eggs). We went to the children's hospital today and shopping. I spent really a lot of money. We also took a teleferic (cable car) up the mountain. Took lots of pictures. Visited the Black Church, the largest in Eastern Europe or something like that. Bought peanut butter. It's really nice not to be working and in Iasi. Iasi is dirtierm poorer, boringer than here. Of course, Brasov is a touristy town (it's a ski resort). We saw part of the residential area while on the bus, and that looks more like Iasi, but there is way more traffic and the taxi/car ratio is smaller.

Tomorrow we are going for a drive to visit two other nearby towns. We will tour some castles (really big cool ones!) and buy lots of traditional souvenirs and gifts and things. Sunday we are going to part of church and then spending the rest of the day on the train. Monday we are going back to work. I miss my kids, of course, but I am really enjoying my break.

: Doing lots of exciting stuff and trying to get used to paying to sit on the internet- I don't type fast enough! Maybe that's cause last time I was on I was to tired to even think. We went to church yesterday, it was really good. Lisa and I are both glad we are getting a semi-culture shock experience before the language completely changes (we can't understand half the people's accents anyway). Today we're going to climb St. Paul's Cathedral, watch the changing of the guard (if it exists) and go to the British Museum. We're going to make ourselves stay up for New Year's but we have no idea where we're spending it.


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